We’re surrounded by machines made by human brilliance, but we don’t experience them as brilliant — we experience them as alien and inhuman and infuriating.
But machinery is wonderful. It can be understood perfectly, and exploring machinery can be exhiliarating, and wonder-provoking.
Outside of shop class, schools don’t do much of this.
Our basic plan:
- Once a month, each of our classes will pick a technology — toasters, for example.
- They’ll make a prediction as to how the device works, and write those down (perhaps publicly, on our chalk wall.)
- The students will try to figure out how it works: they’ll shake it, draw it, bang on it, dissect it, and probe it with questions.
- Those questions that elude even the class’s best attempts to answer, the teacher may prepare a lesson on.
- They’ll try to re-assemble it. They might even try to build another one, from spare parts.
Through this, we hope to...
- Help students understand how the world around them works.
- Develop a habit of thinking: how do things work?
- Nurture a (true) conviction that our students can understand anything technical they put their minds to.
If you walk into our classrooms, you might see:
If you enter one of our classrooms, you might spy a student pressing gently on a toaster’s exposed spring coils with a pencil, to see how they work. You might also stumble upon students arguing over how something works.
Some specific questions:
- How do we, erm, prevent kids from wounding themselves? Machines can hurt. How do we want to handle safety?