There is always a the risk that we can overuse the word ‘inspiring’ in the manufacturing industry – Rode Heath Primary School, however, are really giving us plenty of opportunity to use it with their introduction of ‘tinkering’.
Julie Wiskow, a Science Lead at Rode Heath, has seen 30% of students wanting to pursue careers in the engineering industry since she introduced ‘tinkering’ into the classroom.
‘My passion for engineering started when I took part in a MOOC (massive open online course) run by the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco, which I discovered via Twitter (@TinkeringStudio).’
‘I spent part of my 2015 summer holiday learning how to ‘tinker’ – playing with paper circuits, making scribbling machines and experimenting with conductive thread. I was quickly hooked and couldn’t wait to try out some of these activities on my new class.’
Thinking with your hands
‘That same September, along with my Year 3 colleague John Randall, I joined the Tinker Tailor Robot Pi project led by Lynne Bianchi of Manchester University.’
‘This project was in its second year and involved like-minded teachers from schools in the Greater Manchester area.’
‘We were working together to introduce ‘Engineering Habits of Mind’ (EHoM) to children, through the notion of ‘tinkering’ – what I like to think of as ‘thinking with your hands’. It fitted in very well with the work I had been doing over the summer.’
‘As part of the project, we began to hold ‘tinkering’ sessions with our Year 3 and 4 children at Rode Heath. This involved presenting them with a series of practical activities, which had a defined engineering output.’
‘The children were not only actively problem solving, but also learning to adapt and refine their designs as a matter of course – skills that are very relevant to the rest of the curriculum.’
‘After a relatively short time, the children were beginning to use some of the habits learned through their tinkering in other areas of the curriculum, particularly related subjects like science and computing.’
‘They were much more willing to unpick and start again if something was not working successfully. Also, starting with a blank sheet of paper and having the resilience to problem solve creatively was becoming less frightening. Indeed, many children who struggled in other areas of the curriculum shone while tinkering – a great way of boosting their confidence.’