Building A Tinkering Mindset In Young Students Through Making

[For my entire educational career I’ve seen how important it is for students to be able to tinker, build, create, design, and play. In this Mindshift article Alice Baggett outlines some of the advantages in K-3. She continues the work done by Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez who have helped to fuel a new generation of makers with their book Invent to Learn and workshops around the country. Here in Pittsburgh the Children’s Museum and other organizations have carried the Maker movement forward under the umbrella of the Remake Learning Network.]

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Photos by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Excerpted from The Invent to Learn Guide to Making in the K–3 Classroom: Why, How, and Wow! by veteran teacher Alice Baggett, published in 2016 by Constructing Modern Knowledge Press. This book is the third of a line of “Invent to Learn Guides,” published as companions to Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom.

By Alice Baggett

The most important thing you can do to set up your tinkering space for primary students has nothing to do with the space. Of course you’ll need space for your students to work in, but the physical space for tinkering matters much less than the mental space that you create for young makers.

To be effective tinkerers, students need to achieve a state of mind in which they are primed to play and make joyful discoveries.

Young kids who are playing don’t worry about making mistakes. They’re just playing, and the idea that they could make a mistake—that there’s a wrong way to play—doesn’t enter into their consciousness. It’s this freedom that enables the creation of elaborate pretend games and castles built from playground bits. Replicating a sense of play in the classroom is vital to creating a tinkering mindset for children.

One of the most powerful things you can do to set the philosophical tone in your makerspace is to hammer home the idea that taking risks, trying new things, and making mistakes are not only acceptable actions—they’re desirable actions. That’s what you’re hoping for! But telling a group of little kids that it’s okay to make mistakes is not an effective way to deliver your message. The droning voice of the teachers in the Peanuts cartoons springs to mind! To get kids to internalize your message and truly take it to heart, you have to show them in a wide variety of ways what you really mean.

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