Art Machines at Junior Center

On Monday, we led a professional development workshop for the education staff at the Junior Center for Art and Science, a community museum on the edge of Lake Merritt. It was a great chance to try out an activity with the team and have a reflective conversation about tinkering.

Since the museum focuses on art and science, we thought that constructing mark making machines would be a good way to combine both topics and introduce the group to ideas around learning through tinkering.   

For the session, we brought a few extra supplies to amp up the artistic aspects of the workshop. I went on a shopping spree at Daiso (and happened to run into Tim Hunkin doing the exact same thing)! Watercolor paints, inks, q-tips, brushes, and cosmetic sponges helped the participants create compelling patterns on the paper. 

Right away several people in the group honed in on the aesthetic elements of their designs. Shara made a really interesting machine that looked (and moved) like an elephant dragging the markers along the table. 

At one point in the workshop, some of the participants started wondering about 'how' and 'why' a motor works. We struggled a bit explain the relationship electricity and magnetism (we needed our on-call physicist Paul D) but then decided to do a quick dissection on one of the motors. We uncovered the spools of wire and magnets which helped us think a little more deeply about the phenomenon. Next time I think we'll try to collect supplies to build homopolar motors in case we get another chance to extend the exploration. 

We've been collecting all sorts of interesting recycled containers to use as bodies, and one of the favorites was this cool hipster water bottle named Fred. It was fun to see how this specific material gave Cybele the chance to create a character and collaborate with her robot to make an artistic masterpiece. 

After the workshop we led a reflective discussion using the compass points thinking routine from project zero at HGSE. It was great to hear about what was exciting about tinkering for the group as well as think about the worries and challenges that they brought up. 

I think that there's a lot of potential for infusing making and tinkering into a community based center. Tinkering can address art/science content, processes, and also attitudes and dispositions. We're excited to see how these ideas about teaching and learning through tinkering continue to evolve at the Junior Center. 

WorkshopRyan Jenkins