Last week at After Dark we had a super fun collaboration with the life sciences department to make DIY traps to collect plankton samples. The activity fit the theme of the night, glow, because the plastic bottle traps used different colored glow sticks to attract the tiny creatures that live in the bay. We've been looking for ways of collaborating with the biologists on staff for a while and these homemade tools gave us the perfect opportunity to use our tinkering skills to help visitors create tools for looking at the amazing variety of life that surrounds us here on the bay.
Here's the basic version of the trap. We collected old plastic bottles for the body and cut gaps in the plastic to allow the plankton to float near the glow stick. Then we used hot glue to attach a ring of mesh so that the water could escape when we pulled the traps out of the bay. After floating in the bay for about thirty minutes each trap collected a concentrated plankton sample at the top of the bottle.
Once they finished creating the trap, explainers escorted them to the side of the building and they flung their traps (attached by string of course) into the water and let them float and bob for a while. Sorry for the horrible picture but trust me it looked much more beautiful in real life to have all these different colored lanterns floating near the pier.
Here are a few of the creepy creatures that we found floating around in the bay. Throughout the night there were big crowds gathered around the microscope checking out what we found, but we could see an special pride when people got to see what they personally caught in their traps.
Overall it was a really cool event and a great first collaboration with life sciences. I really liked how we shared expertise and that we could try a new activity in the tinkering studio with a really uncertain outcome. We often say that we want to learn something new from our activities and since I have barely any knowledge of plankton beforehand, I was definitely in that camp. Also it was nice to have people build a real tool that's not so different than what the professionals in our museum use to research and exhibitize the tiny sea creatures that share our new home! We're looking forward to more collaborations across the museum that we can share with visitors to our workshop.
Jim Granato just made this sweet little promotional video about The Art of Tinkering (thanks Jim!).
The video highlights hacks that a few of our favorite tinkerers made to the book,
taking advantage of the conductive ink on its cover. Their books, along with a few
others are on display now in the Tinkering Studio.
Mark your calendar and join us for a very special CoP hangout:
“Engaging Young Children with Making & Tinkering”
Thursday, Dec 5th from 11:00 - 12:00 PST
I’m thrilled to have Lisa Brahms, Evelyn Read and Rachelle Doorley on this hangout, to talk about their work as it relates to this topic. They all have experience with early childhood learning and have inspired me in many ways, I’m hoping they’ll do the same for you.
Are you wondering what a CoP hangout is? CoP is short for Community of Practice. We recently formed a CoP around Making and Tinkering Spaces in Museums through ASTC—you’re welcome to become a member! The hangout is an informal online gathering using ASTC's webinar format, where you'll be able see video and images from others and ask questions. If you’ve already joined the CoP, just go to this URL to register and save your spot in the hangout.
Lisa is the Director of Learning and Research at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and one of the most thoughtful people I know when it comes to child development. She’ll be talking about the MAKESHOP at CMP, its pedagogical underpinnings and the research she is doing connected to making with young children and their families.
MAKESHOP® at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum
Evelyn Read is the mastermind behind the Creative Kids Museum at TELUS Spark, up in Calgary. She’ll talk about the importance of materials and tools for young children and their role in the delightful space she has created for their youngest visitors to the museum.
Creative Kids Museum at TELUS Spark
Rachelle Doorley is the brilliant mom blogger/educator behind Tinker Lab who wrote about two things near and dear to my heart. (1) The importance of building confidence in young children and (2) why tinkering matters. She’ll be sharing her thoughts about both ideas as part of the hangout.
This is going to be a good one!
Thursday, Dec 5th at 11PST
If you’d like to share images or examples from your museum let me know and I’ll leave time in the hangout for that. Since there are several of you in the CoP who work in Children’s Museums I think we will have plenty to talk about. If there is too much to cover in a single hangout we will add a follow-up session later in the month.
I had been having deep philosophical discussions about the creation of making/tinkering space recently. Truly enjoying the growth and excitement around this idea. These conversations gave me reason to realize I sometimes get caught up in the logistics and problem solving aspects of inhabiting a space, forgetting how important it is to step back and think about what it means to “make place”—I was reminded of a lovely piece written by an architect (and dear friend) Donlyn Lyndon. I asked him if I could share it on the blog, hoping it would give you a moment to think about space and place from a different perspective.
Caring for Places:
What Does it Take to Make Place?
It takes the mind of the beholder
Caring how things are
and might be
It takes circumstance and promise and
That is to say it takes being alert among things
Standing beside them
Moving among them
Discovering positions in a larger pattern
Choosing among paths and vantage points
It takes events
Everyday and momentous
Spontaneous and contrived
which fill the spaces between and bring them to life
which engage the senses and prompt the mind
Magic rings of silence
Sounds that touch the nerves of being, echo and spur recollection
The flows of social action
It takes marking the things that surround us in ways that call out and
recall events that take place
Inscribing thought in matter
Tracing the acts of conception and construction
Embedding ornament that intrigues and offers to narrate
Reflecting joy of the seasons and of ritualized time
Forging libraries of aspiration
Indexing paths through the repository of the city
It takes Companions
Faces that challenge
Faces that confirm
Faces that dance
The many great faces that help to bring places into being
And yes, the face of the unfamiliar
– Donlyn Lyndon
Originally printed in the journal Places: Forum of Design for the Public Realm
Volume 20, Number 1, Summer 2008