Museum of Life and Science Launches Family Workshops, After-School Club


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A young girl experiments with robotics at a TinkerTech Family Workshop.

Photo courtesy of Museum of Life and Science

The Museum of Life and Science recently announced the launch of a new series of creative building programs specially designed to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-minded critical thinking for all ages — TinkerTech Family Workshops and Project TinkerTech, a project-based tech building club for middle school students.

Family Workshops

Launching Friday, Sept. 15, TinkerTech Family Workshops encourage experimentation with the latest technologies such as 3D printing pens and wearable electronics, while developing skills that create real-world critical thinking connections to STEM and beyond. While themes will vary, workshops will focus on using the engineering design process to develop key problem-solving skills. It is also an opportunity for adults and children to work together, creating something tangible to take home. Activities include designing your own exhibit after a behind-the-scenes look at popular environments, such as Hideaway Woods, building wearable optics to take home, and experimenting with light to solve a laser maze. A participation fee of $25 per person covers supplies and provides access to dedicated design space.

Middle School After-School Club

Starting Tuesday, Sept. 26, participants in the 10-week Project TinkerTech after-school club program will utilize the engineering design process to tackle a variety of individual and collaborative building projects. Each session will feature a new theme determined by the interests and skill levels of each session’s participants, creating a truly customized experience, possible activities include creating a working heart valve and programming microcontrollers and computers. This project-based club is specially designed for middle school students during the 2017-18 school year.

Developing a Generation of Critical Thinkers

Long known for exhibit environments that encourage guests to create, test and explore “why,” the TinkerTech series extends the museum’s core education and exhibition philosophy — hands-on, inquiry-based and experiential learning are essential for the development of far-reaching critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The development and regular use of these skills are vital for successful community and global engagement. 

“The world is rapidly changing, accelerated by science and technology. Adapting to those changes and dealing with the complexities they create isn’t easy for any of us,” says Barry Van Deman, president and CEO for the museum. “Our children are growing up surrounded by all of this, but will they be prepared to move into the workforce as adults and informed citizens?”

The museum’s expanded focus on tinkering offers a natural complement to the curiosity driven learning present within many of their most popular indoor and outdoor exhibit environments including Contraptions, LaunchLab and Hideaway Woods.

“The act of tinkering is at its core a practice in problem-solving, which is an element in all of our exhibit environments” says Lauren Auchter, education specialist for Tinkering & Technology at the museum. “An ability to navigate the process of prototyping, testing, analyzing and refining will be a vital skill set for almost every profession, but this same process is also paramount in developing skills essential for community engagement.”

On the surface, participants might be experimenting with circuits during their TinkerTech explorations, but they are also refining key teamwork skills, strengthening methods for communication, exploring different viewpoints, and even empowering future acts of community engagement. “You have to be able to identify the problem and be unafraid to try, test, and even try again if you’re going to work towards a solution,” says Auchter.

“Although tinkering often uses principles found in disciplines like engineering and design, the process of tinkering can evoke a sense of wonder and serendipitous discovery that’s key in creating critical thinkers,” adds Steve Scholle, program manager for Tinkering and Emerging Technology at the museum. “Tinkering as a critical thinking tool is often about the journey rather than the destination, a process rather than a product. Sometimes high-tech, sometimes low-tech, it’s a way to play with tools and concepts, in deeply personal and experiential ways — It is through this personal experience and first-hand knowledge that tinkerers become versatile and adaptive thinkers, creators, and citizens.”

While many STEM focused programs are designed for a narrow age range, many sessions within the TinkerTech series are designed for full family participation. Each session will include activities with highly flexible levels of difficulty and detail allowing for people of all skills levels to participate and further develop their tinkering skills.

To learn more, visit lifeandscience.org.

A mother and daughter create a design during a TinkerTech Family Workshop.

Photo courtesy of Kissick Photography/Museum of Life and Science

 

 

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