Living with Makers – Meet Snakey 3
Only by wrestling with the conditions of the problem at hand, seeking and finding his own solution (not in isolation but in correspondence with the teacher and other pupils) does one learn.
~ John Dewey, How We Think, 1910 ~
Just a day or two after my youngest daughter learned how to sew circuits (age 7), she came to me with her favorite stuffed animal, “Snakey” – this hot pink boa had a ‘boo boo’ on his head – had split seam and her stuffing was falling out. Olivia was worried that Snakey wouldn’t stay stuffed with this hole. So she brought her out to me and said, “Mommy, I have an idea!” and then she proceeded with a wonderful design to fix her Snakey.
She continued, “Mommy, Snakey has a hole here – so I was thinking we could fix him by sewing on some lights – and then put the switch on his tongue…..but I wonder where we should put the battery?!”
I was in the midsts of writing a paper at the time – and unfortunately, I nodded and said, “oh that sounds nice” and told her of course we could get some LEDs and make her Snakey light up – and fix her, too. At the time, I wasn’t fully paying attention. It’s unfortunate – because I could have chimed in and asked her to expand on her design. But I was ‘busy’ at work – rather than fully paying attention to her cool design to fix her very important friend.
However, reflecting a day later, I realized – “Wait! This is significant. She is wanting to build on her previous experience with e-textiles. She is interested in continuing the practice of making circuits. I have a window of opportunity here to build on a previous experience!”
Even though Snakey doesn’t have a significant role in society, she does in our household. She is Olivia’s stuffed “friend” that keeps her company at night. She is loved dearly – and this is very important to Olivia. Fixing her with a few stitches would be easy. Fixing her and adding lights is a bit more complex – but also a creative solution to being afraid of the dark.
Olivia’s “ah-ha” moment went unnoticed by me – initially! But, I had my own “ah-ha” moment, which has led me to purchase the e-textiles so she can fix her personal problem with her Snakey. I feel this is an opportunity to make a connection to her previous experiences and to make (fix) something personally meaningful – something both Papert (1992) and Dewey (1910) would most certainly applaud if asked about this moment to continue her learning about circuitry — and quite possibly a significant moment that may continue a path in engineering, robotics, medicine, or any other line of work that deals with design, creativity, and problem solving!
The moral of this story is that learning doesn’t start and stop at the door of a school or an informal space such as the Creativity Labs…it continues and grows in personal places, such as the home, where we must find ways to recognize it and grant access to that continuity when opportunities present. Funding may be an issue for many – which makes this a difficult outcome for low to middle income populations. But if children are asked what they could “fix” or “make” as an extension of their personal livelihood (rather than focusing on academic standards) in these already funded programs around the country – perhaps we could keep them engaged longer in STEAM*** learning environments and STEAM related career fields….essentially meeting two needs with one deed!**
Knowledge is for mobilizing for a purpose, to make something happen, to achieve a goal. The goal might be making a machine, it might be creating a work of art, it might be making a theory, but it’s a personal goal that the individual believes in, and not something that’s written down in a curriculum. – Seymour Papert*
We will allow people to learn by following the things they believe in with passion and interest. They’ll learn more deeply. No, they won’t all learn the same things, but we don’t need them to learn all the same things. We want them to be diverse. We want them to be able to do different kinds of activities and bring different points of view. – Seymour Papert*
Check back soon – we’ll show how Snakey turned out after her operation and new designer styles!
***STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics
**Revised the saying “filling two needs with one deed” from http://www.ticklebugs.com/pages/contests.htm