- Kids and their parents or teachers would organize teams in their neighborhood or community.
- Kids and parents would likely learn about Tinker Teams via word of mouth and/or searching for maker or tinkering activities online.
- Teams can be based in a school -- as an after-school activity -- or at a library, YMCA, or similar facility.
- Guidelines and tips would be available to teams via a web site, email list, or printed handbook.
- An online directory would keep track of Tinker Teams and facilitate Tinker Meets.
- The directory and guidebook could probably be maintained by a small group of volunteers with little or no funding required.
- Based on feedback from kids and parents, Tinker Teams would start with more defined and exciting challenges -- like building a go kart, model rockets, a giant kite, a working water cannon, etc.
- Although the challenge may be defined, the solution open-ended. Tinkerers will be free to imagine, build, test, and improve on their own solutions.
- Tinkerers are expected to make something, but it doesn't have to work perfectly (or at all!) or look pretty.
- Mentors will provide guidance on process and skills, and help if tinkerers get stuck. But they won't provide any "correct" answers.
- As tinkerers get more experience, the challenges could become more self-directed and defined, with guidance from the adult mentor.
- Providing constructive design critiques and feedback would be part of each session -- what do you like about someone else's project, what questions do you have, and how would you build on the idea?
- Tinker Teams from different locations would meet up occasionally -- perhaps twice a year -- to share projects and progress
- A directory or email list would be helpful to organize the Tinker Meets
- Since there are like-minded maker groups forming everywhere, Tinker Teams can get together with any group, whether they call themselves a "Tinker Team" or not
- Build technical and aesthetic skills: using simple to more-advanced tools, from screwdrivers to sewing machines to soldering irons to Arduino boards
- Compliment the school curriculum with hands-on experience of math and science concepts
- Fill in potential curriculum gaps, especially in arts and aesthetics
- Teaching and learning skills with other tinkerers
- Giving and receiving critique and feedback
- Organizing and leading work on a shared project
- Defining a problem or project and setting goals to complete it
Parents and teachers will
- Receive guidance and support from other Tinker Team mentors (so they don't have to figure everything out on their own)
- Learn new skills alongside kids
- Learn how to teach maker or innovation classes that could become part of the formal curriculum
FEEDBACK FROM YOUNG PEOPLE
- Thought the tinker team and space sounded cool
- "I would like to get together with a bunch of kids (but mostly people that I know) and do something we all like to do together. Like improv, electronics, science or performance and art stuff."
- "Like that we could put on shows with people who are experts, like Jenny."
- "I like the tinkering name. I like building and making things."
- Contests and fairs might stoke competitive spirits and get kids motivated.
- "I like that it can prepare students for activities they might want to pursue in high school (like robotics or debate) to see what their interests are."
- "I also think it is cool that you thought to combine two very different activities like robotics/science olympiad and debate because those disciplines normally are not seen together."
What they would change
- "I don't like after school, maybe Saturdays are good."
- "I don't think that a Tinker Team should consist of a junior high age student and an elementary school student. A nice mix might be to stick with the K-5th grade age range because by junior high, many schools already have Science Olympiad and other activities in place for students, whereas in elementary school, I think students would love to have something like this instead of just playing sports after school."
Questions they had
- "Who are the teachers? Can my mom be a teacher?"
- "If my mom teaches, can I help with the project?"
- "Where is it?"
- "How would schools handle the salaries of the mentor teachers who stay after with the students to work on these projects?"
- "Is there a budget for the supplies the students would be able to afford? Who would pay for this or would the kids have to pay a fee to be a part of this? That might discourage some students from joining."
- Access to some kind of building system, like lego, that would make it easy to construct things.
- "I want people my own age or older, no little kids who break my things. Like 1st grade and beyond."
- Experiment with a mix of exciting, pre-defined challenges and more self-guided tinkering to see what appeals best to kids
- Keep the age range narrow for starters and/or have different activities for different levels
- Keep an element of presenting, pitching, and providing feedback on projects
- Validate the costs and funding for materials and tools
- The challenges for a maker space or group are having a clear approach, some capable mentors/ teachers, enough free time for creative play/work of this kind, and a culture of trying things out.
- Different school districts handle after-school activities differently. Some contract activities to for-profit companies. It's probably best to have a flexible approach that can work either within or outside of schools.
- In pitching Tinker Teams to schools, it would be important to differentiate it from any existing programs that a school might have. A more open-ended tinkering approach instead of a strictly defined challenge is one possible way to differentiate.
- Tinker Teams would work well regardless of whether the school is public, private, or charter.
- Depending on the school, a potential issue could be funding for supplies. If schools are competing with one another, it would be important to have equity in terms of resources.”
- It would be important to provide Tinker Team advisers with specific ideas on how to lead after-school workshops. If teachers/advisers are well-prepared to guide students, the program would have a good chance of being successful.
- Tinker Teams can work for all age groups, as long as each age group is appropriately challenged. It might even be a cool for high school age Tinkerers to mentor middle and elementary school teams.”
- Students love being competitive, and they would be excited for the prospect of competing with other schools. While kids are motivated by the pure glory of winning, they'd also be excited if there were tangible prizes.”
- There are many similar groups and resources for makers that can guide and inspire Tinker Teams (it helps to stand on someone's shoulders):
HOW TINKER TEAMS CAN REACH A DIVERSE POPULATION OF YOUNG PEOPLE
- Tinker Teams can be fully funded by the teams, or through grants and private donations. Teams will be available to all public, private, and charter schools nationwide without any costs to schools or other institutions.
- Tinker Teams do not require computers or internet access. Guidelines, tips, challenges, and other information can be distributed in print format and by mail, if needed. All children should be able to participate regardless of geographic location and socio-economic background.
- Tinker Teams is not a traditional fine arts program with an emphasis on creating high-quality painting, drawing, dancing, music, etc. Young people do not need to see themselves as especially creative to make things with basic materials, and Tinker Teams will not expect projects to look pretty.
- Tinker Teams is team-oriented, enabling disabled young people to fully participate through suggestions and ideas. This combines with the fact that projects / assignments will not require the Internet to make Tinker Teams a truly all-inclusive program.
- With projects involving teams of different sizes, young people who are introverted should feel comfortable in the smaller groups. They will also be nudged to try working in larger groups, helping them to learn to be at ease in different settings.
Tinker Teams could take advantage of the space available at schools, without requiring a curriculum change. By representing their schools, students on the team could get some recognition and recognition from teachers and peers, which would help reinforce their creative confidence. Plus, it could be a school activity students could use for college applications.