Takin’ It To The Streets! (or rather, to the Libraries!)

This is a guest post by Vivian Altmann

My Exploratorium program, Community Educational Engagement, facilitated drop-in workshops on “Tinkering with Tops” at SFPL branches throughout the city this December. We’ve done a bunch of different hands-on, making and tinkering workshops at branch libraries since about 2011.


A Few of Our Favorite Tops (part 1)

In the tinkering studio's month long exploration of toys, we're highlighting all types of spinning tops. And of course, our favorites are the do-it-yourself variety. Tops are incredibly easy to make with common household objects like yogurt cups, metal lids, found gears, golf pencils and many other everyday materials. We've currently been experimenting with making tops using thin cardboard (mostly from food boxes), skewer sticks for stems, and metal washers to add weight. We also bring out hot glue and masking tape to hold everything together.


Making tops, the video

We've been making tops with Explainers, and with visitors on the floor. They are such simple devices, yet mesmerizing to watch, compelling to spin, and complex to make. What's not to love?


Tip-Top Tape Top Tutorial

Although we've been experimenting with all types of top-making materials over the past few days, I think that my favorite toy was made using only one ingredient - masking tape! "Tape helps" has been an unofficial mantra for solving consistency issues at marble machines for a long time, but it's not often that we use this versatile building material on its own. From now on I'll be able to satisfy that primal urge to spin a top even if all I can find to build one is an old roll of masking tape (or as I tested yesterday in the TS, slightly used tape from around the table).


Making tops

Tops Training with FT Explainers
On Tuesday we had a training with the Field Trip Explainers centered about making tops, an activity that we have tried on the floor a couple of times before, and are interested in developing further into something that can be offered in an ongoing way in the Tinkering Studio.

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