Our technology/mechanics curriculum

[Over the next few months, I plan to be sketching out very short synopses of all of the pieces of our school's curriculum. From those, I'll create a new website — not merely a blog — so we can nudge the school one step closer to reality!] A trouble of the 21st century is that we're surrounded by technology we don't understand. We feel confused, and powerless.

But what if a school could explore the technological world from a very young age? What if we could raise a generation who was in awe of the complexity others had created, who was convicted that they could add to that complexity?

What we'll do

1. Our classes, starting in first grade, will choose an Thing of the Month — a toaster, a refrigerator, a light bulb, and so on.

2. Kids will interrogate the object with questions, as they tap it, squeeze it, sniff it, draw it, and use it. (How does it know when to pop up the toast? Why do the insides glow red?)

3. The teacher won't just slap on superficial answers that hide more than they reveal: "a timer!" "electricity!" Instead, she'll dive into a little research (books, websites, community members) and make suggestions and drop hints to guide students into deeper pondering.

4. Over the weeks, the class will have a conversation as they begin to dissect the object, slicing and dicing and shooting down old hypotheses as they propose new ones, and asking ever more questions. (Why don't the coils burn? What is electricity, anyhow?)

Our hope is that by the end of the month, kids'll have come to a deeper real understanding of the physical world than many students get in all elementary school.

Steve Jobs famously said, "Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact. And that is that everything around you that you call ‘life’ was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it. You can build your own things that other people can use…. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again."

We can raise a generation that has gratitude toward the makers who came before, and who want to be makers themselves.

If you find this interesting, you also might be interested in our biology curriculum, our drawing curriculum, and our question-formulation curriculum (links coming soon).

Previous (and longer) blog posts on this include this and this.

Some open questions: Is there anyone who's already doing science like this? What sorts of liabilities do we have when teaching kids how to use saws and other sharp things?

Brandon Hendrickson

Seattle, WA