"It's fooling around directly with phenomena, with tools and materials. It's thinking
with your hands and learning through doing. It's slowing down and getting curious
about the mechanics and mysteries of everyday stuff around you. It's whimsical,
enjoyable, fraught with dead ends, frustrating, and, ultimately, about inquiry."
(Wilkinson & Petrich, The Art of Tinkering, 2014)
Tinkering is an approach to learning increasingly adopted within informal learning settings to engage people with STEM learning (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). It builds on ideas in inquiry-based pedagogy and exploits some of the most engaging and motivational elements of learner-centered, immersive and hands-on learning approaches to develop 21st century skills such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, problem solving, communication, responsibility, self-confidence, digital literacy and entrepreneurship. In a Tinkering activity, the learner is presented with wide-raging tools and materials which they use to explore STEM phenomena through the process of creating something new.
The uniqueness of the Tinkering activities lies in its innovative methodology.
The pedagogy of Tinkering addresses people of all backgrounds and walks of life, and is characterized by: the active engagement with materials and activity, the intentionality of action and the conscious desire to learn how to learn. All this is found in activities as simple (or as complex) as putting objects together or apart, making machines moving, flying, designing, floating, exploring materials, mechanical elements or electricity to create original artefacts, sewing circuits together to make jewels, constructing ever lasting chain reactions.
Tinkering has been devised by the Tinkering Studio of the Exploratorium of San Francisco USA and is becoming a worldwide philosophy and practice. The Tinkering Studio programme follows six main strands of work – research and development, the Tinkering Studio itself, collaborations, public events, publications, professional development - that inform and inspire the design of all activities in order to fuel creativity, generate new ideas and solutions, and inspire others to start tinkering at home or in their own institutions.
If you want to know more: tinkering.exploratorium.edu