A Year of Making in the Making

By Kristin Sanderson

IMG_5363As you know, last year, the Miquon staff and board took on the topic of play and looked into its vital role in the physical, emotional, and mental well being of our students.  It is hard to tune into the news media these days without hearing scientists and educators discussing its positive effects on children.  We are extraordinarily grateful there is such public attention to play, as well as data and long term studies to support Miquon’s stance that children thrive with independent play outdoors.  Our teachers and parents are heartened by that affirmation, as well as the stories from our alumni who describe moments of play — usually in or near the creek — as some of their most seminal.  All serve to reinforce the deep value and life-long benefit of play as part of a Miquon education. (Please keep your stories coming!  Email them to [email protected]!)

One of the interesting results of our discussions has been an awakened appreciation of an offshoot of play, popularly called “tinkering” or, for educators advocating for the return of the arts in public schools, the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) to STEAM (add art!) movement.

As a result, we built more workbenches  outside our classrooms to expand the use of traditional blocks and materials already being used inside, so that children of all ages have more with which to tinker and invent.  Teachers are bringing circuitry, MaKey MaKey boards, Drawdio pencils, and new computer programs into the mix as well*.  Mini-courses on woodworking, kinetic sculpture, coding, and filmmaking are being planned.  Providing real work and authentic experiences for children means that their ideas during a social studies project will be encouraged into 3-D constructions, and that they can use our new high quality digital cameras to record, edit, and communicate their work.  At lunch last week, one teacher announced, “¼ lauan plywood is our friend” but we also got excited about a “powerup airplane” that combines origami with an iPhone-controlled propeller.  As with all areas of our educational practice, we find ourselves looking for ways to bring technology into our traditional methods — it feels both natural and new.   Manual dexterity, problem analysis, collaboration, logical thinking, practical life skills — as well as digital ones — remain our learning goals.  We will give children skills and tools and follow their lead.  We are pretty sure play will be integrated too.

The premise of Daniel Pink’s best-selling book, A Whole New Mind, is that we have moved from the information age to the conceptual age.  Now that computers can do most things faster than humans, the world our children are inheriting values new differentiators.  He uses these themes to describe them: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning.  We believe that by encouraging more making and tinkering at Miquon — and through showing our students the importance of experimentation, imagining, divergent thinking, and creating — we capture most of what Pink foresees.  Tinkering is a process that provides them many of the skills to be successful in our rapidly changing world and we are going to have a great year doing it.  I hope you will find some time to stop by for a visit or to volunteer to teach some woodworking or building — we would love to see you!
*Tinkering materials made possible through the Tony Hughes Fund

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