May is a busy month for makers and educators in California.
Projects started in class need to come to final stages before the end of the school year, schools and activity centers are organizing next year's programs, and everyone is talking about THE show and tell for makers, the Maker Faire in San Mateo.
It's also a great time to start shouting about new programs - and for me that means TinkerTech, the new name for the classes I've been building as an independent maker educator for the past three years.
The world needs more creative thinkers
TinkerTech uses a combination of cheap maker materials (card, paper, tape, Lego and LEDs) and the best edtech tools (makey makey, littleBits, circuitcubes and Sphero) to help kids learn the skills they need to be a creative thinker.
If students use these skills to become the next great innovator, engineer, or entrepreneur, that’s fantastic as the world needs more people with these skills! If they just like the class because it’s fun and they get to make cool stuff, well that’s what we really like to hear. When kids are enjoying themselves, they are in that place where the best ideas happen.
Creating an environment of playful learning is key because it's the 'it doesn't work' moments that provide the richest parts of the class. This is where the real learning and understanding of what STEM is all about happens. My background as an educational and creative writer meant fun, themed classes were a natural way to create this environment, building the hands-on tinkering for ages 4-12 (Grades Pre-K - 6 US, Nursery - Year 6 in the UK) around a program that encourages imagination. After a year of hands-on testing in our classes in California, we now have a unique year-round program of activities.
TinkerTech activities are accessible for anyone, 'techie' or not
TinkerTech's themed curriculum encourages creativity, story-telling and collaboration through STEM activities. The target age is K-6 children (UK: Nursery to Year 6) and for now, we mostly work with educators who can use the program in schools, clubs and libraries. The activities are created by teachers who work with children all the time and know what they like. Engineering and science concepts inspire the activities, but educators from a mix of backgrounds - engineering, science and the arts, create them, which makes TinkerTech activities accessible for anyone to use. They are suitable for packing up in a box to take on location wherever your class might be, and are designed to take about one hour plus set-up and clean-up.
Students create projects that are an expression of themselves and that they are proud to share
Our themes range from Superhero to FunFair to Build a City, with each themed project exploring light, sound and motion and designed to be completed to ‘Show and Tell’ standard in about six weeks. Great for schools preparing for a Maker or Open House event - and wonderful for children who use a mix of high and low-tech tools and materials to create projects that are an expression of themselves and that they are proud to share.
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Article by TinkerTech Founder, Claire Comins @clairecomins