The theme of the summer issue of YALS (digital edition available now to members & subscribers via the Members Only section of the YALSA website) is college and career readiness and its packed with great articles in support of moving YALSA forward. Have you received your edition of YALS in the mail already? “Libraries and Tinkering Things” by Luigi Anzivino and Karen Wilkinson from the Tinkering Studio in the Exploratorium in San Francisco share their views on what the space is, their philosophy, what tinkering is and who can participate (the answer for this is-EVERYONE!) They start out by saying, “As informal educators, our mission is to encourage everyone’s creativity and love of learning, and we believe out-of-school opportunities have the greatest potential to build upon young learners’ interests and abilities. Making and tinkering are perfect vehicles for this, because they rely on personal interest and motivation as drivers. We think that libraries are especially well positioned in this area because they can introduce local makers and tinkerers as mentors within the community, fostering powerful connections.” What if you are a small suburban, tribal library, rural and are challenged by space and funding to really even begin thinking about creating a space that is dedicated to learning and is transformative? Let’s think about some of the concepts shared in the article and think about some ways to try and create a transformative space like this where you are.
The space is designed to feel welcoming-how can you do this in your own space? Are you able to carve out a space where tinkering can occur whenever the library is open? Even if this space is two tables in a corner. Can you make this an inviting space and one that is defined as a space where tinkering can occur? Check out this article about an elementary school library that created a tinkering environment.
Allow a temporary tinkering community to emerge, one that changes day to day, based on who is there and the experiences and interests they bring to the activity-think about reaching out to teachers, community groups, carpenters, artists, welders and more who could be part of the cadre of mentors/teachers. They can be part of the tinkering team to introduce to some of the tinkering activities and to help facilitate some of the tinkering. The tinkering will naturally change and grow, but it would be helpful to have a team of in house tinkerers to help facilitate that initial goal of tinkering.
Materials are plentiful and allow for a variety of age and experience levels-based on your funding and space size, think about how you can have stuff out for teens to tinker with as well as the team of tinkerers to help facilitate the tinkering.
Try not to rely on step by step instruction, try to allow for curiosity-some introduction of what the materials are and ideas of things to do with them but allow for exploration and discovery for the teens.
Activities are designed to become more complex than the entry point-start with some projects that may have a starting and end point to get teens going and from move to more complex projects.
Tinkering is not a prescribed set of steps-being open, flexible and thinking creatively.
Think about learning as nonlinear and never really being done-tinkerers can work and learn together. Projects may take on a whole new dimension or direction, this is part of tinkering.
Who’s in your library, your community, your schools, that can be a part of the team of mentors, teachers, learners? Reach out by asking people in your community and what skills people have to share, also ask them their ability to commit to a certain amount of time.