Tinkering by definition means an attempt to repair or improve something in a casual or desultory way. But in general terms, it is all about playing around and meddling with simple stuff, sometimes not even having a clear-cut end goal or time limits.
Thus tinkering can be in any fields and can encompass almost anything like tinkering with an idea or tinkering with a material or tinkering to assemble/create or tinkering to understand.
Tinkering apart from been fun and very satisfying offers Valuable Skills to kids and adults alike. When you allow a child to take something a part, it cures their interest with feelings of confidence and discovery. For ages children have taken things apart to learn how they work. Tinkering for many kids fuels their natural curiosity about life
The essential tools of tinkering include simple tools like scissors, cutters to tools for carpentry like a chisel, screwdriver to advanced tools like drilling and dremel kits etc.It can vary from making simple models with clay to 3d modeling sophisticated prototypes using 3D printer.The modern advancements help students to use microcontrollers like BiBox, Arduino, Raspberry Pi etc. to design and make smart embedded projects.
A Space/area where one can come and tinker is called a Tinkering Lab. Similar to MakerSpace. A tinkering lab will have all the tools, materials and a mentor to help you to tinker with, especially when the lab is meant for students.
There has been an influx of tinkering lab in the recent times.The Government of India has started the process of setting up thousands of Tinkering labs in schools called as Atal Tinkering Labs , to promote scientific temper and cultivate the spirit of curiosity and innovation in young minds.
Teaching students Tinkering is not really a structured process always. Instead, it is actually throwing an open-ended challenge so that students can perceive in their own process to find out any solution possible, unlike the normal lab which follows certain steps to reach the end goal.
There can be a few structured classes, in the beginning, to help them understand the tools, the process of thinking and honing their skills. Later they can evolute to what they actually want to do.
On the whole, it is about giving them the tools, process & appreciation of using the tools and giving open-ended challenges to improve on their own. A major part of tinkering lies in the appreciation of failure, as failure is considered the stepping stone and helps in developing the mindset of students.
Please remember, The process of tinkering helps students to discover and find new patterns, form opinions and correlations about various things and process and it is mainly about what students achieve in the process of tinkering and not necessarily the end goal always. Tinkering experience is unique to every individual and let it be that way!
For schools setting up the tinkering labs, in the next article, we will be discussing the physical infrastructure of the tinkering lab and its associated details.