Summer of Make: Maker Corps at Chicago Children’s Museum

Dustin Thacker – Educator, Maker, Tinkerer


Tinkering Lab at Chicago Children’s Museum is a workshop of freedom and flexibility. Families enter the space and instantly start to understand that this is a place where they will have the chance to work with real tools and materials in whatever way they see fit. After a little bit of time becoming saturated in the space, children start gathering supplies. Each person begins to formulate ideas of what they will do, what they will make. They draw inspiration from previously completed projects, materials available, and whatever else is going on the space . . . and then the work begins.

Through the Maker Education Initiative, three Maker Corps Members worked in the Tinkering Lab from mid-June to mid-August.


Heather, Andrea, and Kaity immersed themselves in the idea that when we trust children with real tools they show great competency. All three Maker Corps Members proved to be supremely adept at letting children explore a tool, while simultaneously ensuring their safety. Providing the “just in time” information that enhances a child’s exploration takes a thoughtful person, with the ability to see the whole child. The facilitator has to read the child’s body language and keenly observe while making sure the child has plenty of physical, emotional and mental space.

The initial idea for a giant fabric sculpture was sparked by our wealth of fabric scraps, a heretofore unused sewing machine and the Maker Corps Members’ previous work with fabric art. The initial challenge was how to engage guests of the Tinkering Lab in a meaningful program that sparked their creativity. The tinkering began with finding the most effective way to introduce a long-term project. We were constantly adjusting the language we used to spark interest and inspire people to spend time creating.


As the sculpture began to take shape the introduction became less crucial. The sight of what we were creating enthused participants.

In the end about 100 people added a patch to the sculpture. It is now hanging in the Tinkering Lab. Each of its limbs tells a unique story. A story about how we can figure things out by fooling around. A story about how despite not knowing exactly what is going to happen, we are excited to find out. A story about how when we all work together, even with people we have never met or may not ever meet, we can make something incredible.


Read the rest of Dustin’s post at Tinkering School Chicago!


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