We built a boat from scrap wood

 Tinker boat at LSP

Boat Building from Scrap

I think one of the most empowering aspects of learning is when you can create it yourself almost anywhere through problem solving in a natural environment. Part constructivism, part tinker school, this type of experience emphasizes discovery through hands-on, experiential, and collaborative project-based learning. Kids and adults collaborating together in play is hugely rewarding for learning and the self-worth developed by time spent with a caring adult – it also helps remind us to embrace the child-like sense of wonder that's valuable to leaders and learners at every age.

Tinkering is a big hit with kids and gaining traction in the educational community. Best of all, it's something you can do anywhere with a little creativity and resourcefulness. As a learner-led activity, we started by asking what we should build and what he'd like included. Building a boat was an easy choice – near water and it's one of his favorites – and we began collecting and assembling after finding a wide space on the rocky beach

Gear, cost, time

The whole process took maybe 1-2 hours before we moved on down the beach, and you can shorten or extend depending on your location and learner. Use whatever reclaimed materials you find locally – the idea is to use what's there in constructive ways – to keep costs minimal. Overall, tinkering can be a very inexpensive way to encourage creative problem solving and boost self-confidence through the act of creative building during a fun afternoon.

Learn more

Tinkering is very accessible because you can use whatever resources you have available, and the end result is a creative collaboration that can have its own unique look. To learn more about how it's used in education and get inspiration from others, do a quick web and Twitter search for terms like "tinkering in education", and also see if anyone in your local community is doing something similar. Museums, schools, and libraries are starting to incorporate tinkering– and its cousin, the maker movement– and your local hobby shop may also have additional ways to incorporate tinkering in your child's learning at home.

As parents know, 4 year olds need to be engaged in dynamic, interactive projects that ask – and answer – the "Whys," and the more fun it is for everyone, the better. In addition, experiments like our #Tinkerboat also challenge us, as adults, to continually stay one step ahead while also asking Whys, coming up with novel ways to teach, and improving the design through collaboration. These are all successful skills we can both teach and use ourselves throughout life. 

Special thanks to Mooga for the idea to go visit Liberty State Park (LSP) that day – we had a blast with her – and for Sam Pesin, his family, and Friends of Liberty State Park for helping to make LSP possible.