The Tinkering Loft at the Montshire Museum: Construct, Craft and Build
Aug 24, 2016 05:41PM
● By Kirsten Gehlbach
The Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, Vermont, has created an innovative and interactive space designed to engage the young, the not-so-young, and everyone in between in fun and whimsical challenges to think about concepts in science, technology, engineering, and math, also known as STEM.
The Tinkering Loft builds on two years of successful programs that the Montshire staff members have developed, tested, and refined with the help of hundreds of participants of all age groups.
The 2,500-square-foot exhibition has four activity areas open daily 10am to 5pm.
Families with young children can explore “Build It,” a creative play space filled with oversized foam blocks. Kids are free to build forts and invent their own games. This free play area helps develop problem-solving, collaboration, and communication skills by allowing kids to experiment with geometry, materials, symmetry, and design concepts.
“Invitation to Tinker” welcomes all visitors to take on STEM challenges at their own pace. This area offers a rotating selection of projects that encourage amateur engineers to build, experiment, and iterate on their personalized designs. For example, Spinning Things urges older kids and adults to construct a twirling top from nuts, bolts, washers, and cardboard, and then to improve on their designs by tweaking the weight, center of gravity, and moment of inertia.
The Montshire’s popular “Tinkering Labs” make up the final two zones. Participants can learn about circuits, motors, and balance to assemble a personalized, jittering Scribble Bot or experiment with 3D architecture and LED lighting to assemble a miniature Electric Island.
In addition to strengthening STEM skills, the Montshire’s tinkering activities provide opportunities to develop “grit”—the perseverance and problem-solving mindset needed to succeed as a 21st century learner. When people tinker, they try out ideas, make adjustments, and discover science firsthand.