There’s an outdoor tinker zone at AVS! Inspired by the Berkeley Adventure Playground, the new tinker area is in the AVS parking lot by the garden. Piles of wood and old parts sit beside several large, wooden tables made by…the kids and teachers, of course. The idea is that students from JK- on up to middle school can use their free time to come to the Tinker Zone and unleash their creativity. Having the zone in the parking lot allows the whole school to walk over and play, in addition to going inside to the tinker room on the third floor.
A locked cupboard contains items like: saws, nails, hammers, screws, tools, gloves and eye protection. The kids try things, like nailing bits of wood together. They fail. Oops, the nail bent. Why was that? Try again. Oops, the wood split. Try a different part of the grain. The nail wasn’t long enough to go through both pieces of wood? Try nailing from the other side. Under teacher supervision, the kids hammer, saw and assemble whatever their minds imagine. The projects are not directed; the kids solve problems and make discoveries for themselves.
Ed Walters, Head of School, remembers how his father couldn’t throw anything away. “My father came from the Depression Era. He passed on that ethos — ‘Nothing’s really broken,’ and ‘Everything can be repurposed into something else. There are usable parts everywhere. Can you think of a new way to use an old part?’” Ed built his own go-cart as a kid, “– not powered, you know, but soap-box racers. And we would go and take old baby carriages for the wheels and springs and find wood and straighten out all the nails and put it together. It was fun!”
Tinkering has been part of the AVS philosophy since the school began. It’s not just because Ed is a tinkerer at heart. It’s because kids love the hands-on, shop-experience that used to be taught in many schools. “Understanding how to use tools is very important. And tinkering is a great way to release creativity. You are looking at something and not thinking about what it was, but what it could be,” Ed says with a smile.
Do you have any old parts the Tinker Zone could use? “We are always looking for things. Old bicycles are great. As you can see, this one over here is being made into a wind turbine using a wheel off a wheel chair. Wheels are great,” says Ed. If you have extra bits of old PVC pipe, chains, gears, wheels, wood – anything that can be created into something else, please bring it to the parking lot. Ed’s motto: “If it’s broken, we can use it.”