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Sunday, September 14, 2014


After reading the book, Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors, by Rachelle Doorley, I became a little obsessed with creating  TinkerLabs for my classroom. One of my teaching goals for this year became to design more tinkering experiences for scholars.

Tinkering is the focused and purposeful investigation and experimentation of materials with the intent to learn, generate new ideas and expand thinking. Tinkering builds background knowledge and experiences that are directly tied to the tenets of engineering and the engineering design process: planning, building, making connections, design, observation, seeking pattens, improvement and sharing knowledge.

With that in mind, I developed classroom TinkerLabs. So far there are 16 TinkerLabs in our classroom ranging from tinkering with simple machines to using light to notice details and patterns to playing with color, design and pattern to create art. One example is the 'Earth Movers' lab...a favorite.

Each tinker lab has been put together in a plastic tub that includes all of the materials and card with the task, guiding questions and vocabulary. 

Each lab was introduced during the first week of school and now we have 'TinkerLabs' a few times each week as part of our Engineering time.

Here are some pics of the kids at work...notice how engaged they are!

Investigating the properties of sand, soil and rocks in the 'Earth Movers' Lab

Building a wagon in the 'Wheel and Axle' Lab

Investigating the attributes of different animals in the 'Grrrr-Animals' Lab

Planning, designing and building in the 'Domino Maze' Lab

Investigating details using animal x-rays in the 'Light It Up' Lab

Investigating pattern and color in the 'Light It Up' Lab

Using a microscope to notice details in the 'Take A Closer Look' Lab

Learning about color and shape while building in the 'Shadows' Lab

Experimenting with color and design in the 'Gears + Wheels = Art' Lab

Designing a catapult in the 'Lever' Lab

Using Legos to build animals and habitats in the 'Lego-Lands' Lab.
Tinker labs have been going well these past few weeks. One of the challenges for me is making the time to keep designing new labs throughout the year. Another challenge is to get to each of the labs to talk with scholars about their thinking and what they're actually discuss the 'guiding questions'  and the 'vocabulary' on the cards! So many little time!

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