The conference gave me so many ideas for projects, collaborations, and ways of thinking about incorporating building and tinkering in K-12 education. If I had to pick one thing that really resonated with me, I would say it has to be the research of Dr. Sherry Hsi from Lawrence Hall of Science. She is working on finding a way to measure and assess curiosity!
In a talk I went to many years ago, Dr. Jeff Goldstein of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education talked about how science is really just a way to organize curiosity. And now, in almost all of projects we do in our lab, I want kids to wonder about things – how something works, why it works that way, can it work any other way, etc etc. So if there is a way to measure curiosity, that would be an incredible way to assess whether the projects we do and the way we teach is really having the desired effect of making kids more curious. The next step is then empowering them to go one step further and teaching them the tools to satisfy that curiosity, whether by doing research, building prototypes, or what not.
Dr. Hsi talked about a type of study they did where they gave kids cameras and asked them to record everything they wonder about throughout the day. At the end of each week, they looked through the pictures and reflected on what they were curious about. Over the course of months, they can track how curiosity fluctuates and they are also trying to find ways to distinguish different types of curiosity, e.g. how something works and why something doesn’t make sense versus specific facts.
Other highlights from the conference:
- many cool projects coming out of Mike Eisenberg’s Craft Tech lab at Univ of Colorado, including physical input devices for 3D modeling, 3D printing using kid-friendly materials (like chocolate!!)
- being introduced to the amazing metal sculptures of Bathsheba Grossman
- the discussion about how to create equitable spaces for tinkering where everyone gets to participate (versus the moms holding jackets problem)
- instead of aiming for the highest technical level of some project, there is a lot of learning even in the more whimsical and low tech projects
- LEDs as “gateway drugs”
- cool products like Tangles (3D Tangrams), DrawBot, Midas, Hummingbird, etc
I am wildly inspired by all that I saw/played with/heard and all the people I met. Can’t wait until next year!