by Jessie Dufresne,

I recently had the opportunity to take a break from my “day job” as the 2- 5 grade School Library Media Specialist at Daly Elementary in Hamilton, MT, and travel with SpectrUM to Bentonville, AR for Tinkerfest. The event was billed as “a one-day festival that celebrates the creative, curious, and innovative spirit in all of us.” The entire museum (and it was a huge, truly amazing museum!) was taken over by artists, makers, and tinkerers who invited everyone to join in the DIY, and to learn from each other. Families spent the entire day walking around different levels and areas of the museum where they were able to create, tinker and make.

My day was filled with wonder and exploration.  I started my day at the 3-D printing station, because I (accurately) predicted that it would be full to capacity at the end of the day. I conquered my fear of the 3-D design process and created a fabulous chicken / bunny rabbit. Removed from the fear of the unknown, I loved watching the kids design. Outside the 3-D printing station, a huge open area of floor was devoted to “tech take apart” and card board creations. Kids were taking apart computers, Roomba vacuums, speakers – all kinds of tech! After dismantling the technology, at a separate table, students were armed with glue guns and able to put the pieces back together to create something new. The card board creation station was a hit – and hilarious to watch at the end of the day as kids shoved their large cardboard creations into the family car. I discovered the art of felting and loved creating a shared art piece with the kids and parents around the table. The participants in Amazeum created a “yarn bomb” piece on bikes (that will be placed in Bentonville’s town square), and met an amazing yarn artist. Upstairs, kids played made a large “Etch a Sketch” and played “Pac Man” using makey-makeys, a computer circuit designed to teach kids computer programming. Nick, my travel partner from SpectrUM, taught kids how to use “Ozobots” to create basic code. Kids were also able to play with a homemade pin ball machine and R2D2! Outside, we played with corn starch and water on a huge speaker, made massive bubbles, created spirographs out of bike gears, and made a “chaindelier” out of bike chains. Kids were able to take apart two cars and learned how to fix their bikes, all with the gentle guidance of bike and car mechanics.

As an educator, I loved the collaborative approach of Tinkerfest. Kids were given the space to explore, try something, fail, succeed, and create. Staff was there to guide or answer questions, but kids were always given the space to work through and problem solve. I loved all the people that Tinkerfest brought together – staff from museums across the country, tinkerers, makers, artists, educators, families and kids.  I am so excited to bring everything I learned and did back to the school and library and am so grateful for the experience!


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