Gever Tulley: How to Tinker Your Way to Glory

January 26, 2015

It seems simple, right? Grab a couple of boards, a handful of nails, a hammer, and build something amazing. But if you’ve never done it (or never been allowed to do it), how exactly do you begin? Gever Tulley talks about why it’s essential to give children the power to create.

“Tinkering School,” Gever Tulley says, “is a place where kids can pick up sticks and hammers and other dangerous objects, and be trusted.”

Gever Tulley is a software engineer with a passion for experiential learning, and he's founded two schools that invite children to do just that. At the Tinkering School, in the span of a summer week, students can build, make, and create almost anything they can dream up. At Brightworks, they can continue that same level of immersive student-led exploration and hands-on learning throughout the rest of the year.

During a TED Talk, Tulley describes why tinkering is essential to learning. 

When Students First Met Hammers
It began about 10 years ago, when a conversation during a Christmas party made him realize that children today have little to no access to the free-roaming experiences that help to shape his childhood and outlook on life.

“As the boundaries of what we determine as the safety zone grow ever smaller,” Tulley says, “we cut off our children from valuable opportunities to learn how to interact with the world around them. So despite the provocative title, this presentation is really about safety and about how some simple things that we can do to raise our kids to be creative, confident, and in control of the environment around them.”

Success is in the doing, and failures are celebrated and analyzed. Problems become puzzles and obstacles disappear.

Starting the School
With no children of his own (at the time), Tulley “borrowed” the children of his friends and invited them to get up close and personal with the very tools their own parents may have been afraid to let them touch. What happened was just what Tulley was hoping for.

“To this day,” Tulley says, “we've never needed much more than a Band-Aid. But the truth is in an environment where the children realize this is the opposite of being overprotected, we suddenly see the children take much more responsibility for themselves.”

despite the provocative title, this presentation is really about safety and about how some simple things that we can do to raise our kids to be creative, confident, and in control of the environment around them

Teaching Creative Learning
With that responsibility comes a heightened sense of creativity. With wood, nails, rope, and wheels, students figure out how things work. They start building, or they draw out plans and start building those. Students learn as they go — it’s a deep, immersive experience where students get to experiment, tinker, fail, and try again.

And through all the tinkering and experimentation, students discover just how much they are capable of, which is an incredible thing.

“Success is in the doing, and failures are celebrated and analyzed," Tulley says. "Problems become puzzles and obstacles disappear.”


--- Watch Life Lessons through Tinkering ---

By Lisa Merlini

Tag: Exploring Education

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