I heard an interesting piece on NPR the other day about a camp in Brooklyn where kids learn how to use power tools to bring their construction ideas — game boards, marble runs, foosball tables — into being. The feeling of power and triumph that came through in the kids’ voices reminded me of this piece by Teacher Tom, from a few years back, where he talks about letting children at his school move from using white glue to hot glue guns — “Night and Day,” the post is called.
“Dumbing down” the tools and materials we let children have access to, in the name of “safety,” may end up keeping them “safe” (from a hammer hitting their thumb), but at the same time it deprives them of the satisfaction of making things with their hands, of working with materials that have heft and history, of building confidence with tools they will be able to use their whole life. Not to mention the huge neurologic benefits of building in three dimensions, figuring out how to make things work through trial and error, and the myriad small and large motor benefits of creating with your own hands.
I hope to see more and more programs like Construction Kids and The Tinkering School cropping up as we as a society realize the things we’re denying our kids in the name of “safety.” But, really, we don’t even need special programs or camps to give our kids these experiences; I envision a “garage” or “driveway” revolution going on in neighborhoods across America, where children sit, as my boys often do, in front of some scraps of wood, with a hammer, some nails and some “junk” they found on our morning walk, building something amazing.
And if they get a splinter, which very well might happen, then we can just give them a tweezers and let them figure out how to remove it.