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.
Tonight at 9PM PST KRON 4 will broadcast a segment called Gadgets & Goodies where some Exploratorium exhibits are featured as part of Gabe Slate’s half-hour holiday tech gift guide special. Our newly release book, The Art of Tinkering, is going to be featured on the segment, so don’t miss this opportunity to get a glimpse of what the book is all about!
The week of After Dark: The Art of Tinkering, we had featured tinkering studio artist Jie Qi in residence with us in the learning studio sharing some of her recent projects. The group got to experiment a bit with Circuit Stickers, her latest project that takes crafting with circuits to a whole new level.
Circuit stickers are a new medium to experiment with crafting with electronics. They are peel-and-stick components that you can use to build glowing, sensing, and interactive projects without any complicated equipment or programming skills. We experimented mainly with copper tape and paper circuits but these stickers can be used with conductive paint and thread, graphite, or wire and foil.
One of the coolest things about these stickers is that some of them come pre-programmed with instructions like blink, twinkle, or fade. This adds a whole new element to the paper circuit activity and allows people to create interesting and surprising circuits. These functions could be done with programming an micro-controller with an arduino, but in a workshop setting like ours the stickers allow for much more experimentation and rapid prototyping.
This week Jie launched a Crowd Supply page where you can pre-order your own circuit sticker set when they are available in May of next year! We're hoping to experiment with them more in the Tinkering Studio with our paper and sewn circuit activities.
A few weeks ago, the Exploratorium launched a new outdoor space on Market Street called a Living Innovation Zone (LIZ). The prototype space is an exciting way for us to put some of our favorite exhibits out in the middle of downtown San Francisco and share them with the thousands of people who walk by the plaza every day. One of the exhibits that we thought would be a great addition to the space was the musical bench which creates a melody based on the resistance generated when two people hold hands.
We love the musical bench in the Tinkering Studio because it encourages playful interactions and collaborations naturally. As people experiment with each other, the notes change depending on how much skin is in contact and the moisture of each person's hands. The musical bench is also a favorite for us because it shows the result of the process of tinkering and has gone through many iterations from ice balloons to a musical drinking fountain, to a full body set-up that we called "ohm is where the art is". When we heard that it might be rebuilt as part of the LIZ, we were excited to see the latest iteration to an outdoor exhibit.
Another reason that we were excited about the newest version was that it gave us the chance to update the hardware and software that makes it work. We have been running the musical bench (and all the other versions) off an old cricket computer prototype that was developed at the MIT Media Lab over a decade ago. Ray and Jesse wanted to translate the musical bench program to an arduino and commonly available midi board. They were helped by the composer of the original bench and long-time tinkering studio collaborator Eric Rosenbaum who miraculously still had a screen grab of the original logo blocks code that could be used as the basis for the new program. One of the coolest things about this process is that we could finally be able to share the materials and code for the bench so that other people or museums could make their own versions. Once we get the program further developed, we'll post the instructions online!
A few days before the soft opening, the team showed off a prototype version of the bench that used the new hardware in a tabletop experience. Pretty soon we were all experimenting with touching fingers and palms, hi-fives, hand-holding chains - a good sign of success. It worked well for that purpose and it was cool to see how easy it was for Ray to go into the program and change the pitch of the notes, the number of tones per touch, and the responsiveness of the program so that it could reset for each person (more perspiration = higher notes).
The next week, I rode by the LIZ on the way to work and saw Jesse finishing up the first prototype of the singing bench. It looked great with the other exhibits (whispering dishes and a bicycle exhibits) and together they formed a nice little space in the chaos of market street.
After the event, there was a nice article in the SF Gate about the LIZ. Here's my favorite quote from the story:
And who knows? The exhibit could lead to inspiration of another kind. Shawn Lani, a senior artist at the Exploratorium watched as two strangers, a filmmaker and an advertising guy, happened by the exhibit at the same time, ended up holding hands on the singing bench, chatted some more, and few minutes later walked off together.
We're excited to keep working on these ideas with the outdoor group and refine this latest version of the singing bench. And once the code is up online, we're hopeful that others outside the museum will take the concept and create the newest iteration of the musical bench.