Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An action-packed weekend with Gever Tulley!

Wow. What a whirlwind weekend. Tinkering extravaganza! Friday night was the big talk with Gever, Carrie Contey, and Bernadette Noll... but I believe I'll fill you in on that in another post.
Saturday we met at this beautiful spot on the Sri Atmananda Memorial School campus. Gever did a really great job of capturing the arc of the story of how we built this organic, locally grown play structure, which you can check out here. We used this simple but incredibly strong lashing technique (which Gever just happened to have written about recently in Make magazine) which is totally versatile... once you get how to do it you could really build anything... a house, a chair, a swing... a Fred Flinstone-type car.... the sky's the limit. And all with this raw material (sticks) that are usually just out at the curb for the garbage man to chuck in the wood chipper (or elsewhere... I believe you know where to find sticks).

This is Julia... she tore a hole in her pants which was a little upsetting but she quickly recovered and made them into a flag, with great aplomb! She's also the girl who told me near the end, when we were enjoying a quiet moment up top the gigantic wonky stick-structure, that, "You know, it's really satisfying sitting on something you built." She said it so sincerely and with such great clarity... I thought it was really amazing, the kind of thing you might hope the kids were thinking, but she was able to articulate it, and it felt so good to hear, and she was right, it DOES feel so good to sit on something that you built! That's for sure!
Another really beautiful thing happened while we were building. This kid Will was bored and was asking me if I would call his parents to come pick him up. Which of course I would have done, we weren't going to hold anyone captive, but I decided to just give it a little time. I heard him say something about a ladder, and then a while later, I noticed he was working intently with a group of kids. They were building a ladder! I thought this was so amazing, because not only did he successfully move through his boredom and re-engage, but he had an idea, put it into motion, and even found other kids to help him with it! Beautiful!

This is Gever teaching Jack to lash. Truthfully Jack was only there for the last bit and I didn't know if he would be into it. Turned out, he LOVED it, and was completely captivated by the structure, and had a great amount of concentration and interest in the lashing and the building. And something that I thought was really amazing was that later that evening, after we had all gone home, he said, "Triangles are really strong." This is something the spatially challenged among us (me) and others I think really began to get as we were building. And not 'get' as in we immediately said that to ourselves. It was more of a hands-on, deep down knowing that you get when you're learning something from seeing, feeling, and doing it. But still, Jack had only been there for an hour or two, and I asked him, "Did Gever tell you that?" Which Gever wouldn't have done, because part of the Tinkering School technique is letting kids figure things out for themselves. And he said, "No, I just know it." That was another awesome moment of articulation that really wowed me.

As you can see, they loved it. They loved it they loved it they loved it. And us adults that were lucky enough to get to stay there and help loved it too. Not to say it didn't have it's difficulties... there were surely times when we started to feel it was maybe something of a minor disaster that would not be turning into a usable structure at all. But having learned from Gever the evening before to be failure-postive we pressed on. And created a playstructure that can be more than played with... it can be built upon and changed as part of the play... that's something pretty cool, don't you think? What an amazing experience.


jenny said...

I love it - what an amazing experience to have. I love the bit about the little boy building the ladder. Off to check out the link.

Nicole B. said...

thanks for setting this up -- what a great experience for the kids who attended!

Kitten Muffin said...

Aw man, I would have loved to be a part of that! So much fun! I'll have to go check out the lashing technique asap! We have a load of pvc plumbing pipe lengths that are crying out to be lashes together into some sort of crazy structure. Den building has rapidly progressed into an artform over here and it'd be great to have another building technique to add to the toolkit :)

Looking forward to hearing more about your experiences over the course of the weekend!

Kami said...

KM, I have been dying to tell you.... guess what's in the works?!?? 2 years from now, when Exploratorium moves to it's new location... Tinkering SChool K-12!!! Your kids can go to Tinkering School all year long! Can you believe it?

Also, if you dig this project and want to set something up with Gever (a day long workshop with kids.... or whatever) you should totally contact him! He just loves doing cool stuff. And he says he never does the same project twice. So you guys could dream up something else totally groovy!

Jennifer said...

Awesome!! We've got to try this out!