O’NEALS – “Come Tinker With Us,” reads the invitation to the community from Spring Valley School, where all are invited to join in a family-friendly showcase of invention, resourcefulness and creativity. The 1st annual Tinker Fair takes place on campus from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturday, Mar. 22.
The idea behind the experience is that students will show what they are making and share what they are learning, according to organizers, who are in the process of bringing this inaugural Tinker Fair to life.
What’s a tinker, you may wonder, and does it have a bell?
Not necessarily, but it could. According to a quick web search, the word “tinker” is an old-world term for a person who travels from place to place fixing household items, including metal utensils. In the context of Spring Valley’s Tinker Fair, the word applies to the work of kids who are busy with hands-on engineering work, who are excited to host the occasion and show the community what they’ve accomplished.
“This is an all-family, all-community event,” says Spring Valley teacher Nicole Bush, who holds a master’s degree in education. “We thought, let’s get a showcase open to everyone and give people the chance to see what these kids are up to. The gist of it is a celebration of creative ingenuity. It’s loosely fashioned after the Maker’s Faire, billed as the greatest Show and Tell on earth!”
The Tinker Fair began to seriously take shape when the school received an $800 grant for the purpose from the Oakhurst Kiwanis. The fair will feature projects the students have made, along with the wares of “maker-type individuals” from the surrounding area. This may include found art, jewelry, woodworking, welding, and essentially, “grown up sharing hobbies,” says Ms. Bush.
There will also be hands-on stations for painting, Legos building, operating remote-controlled cars, and “squishy circuits.” What’s a squishy circuit? It’s dough similar to play-dough that’s made in a special way which enables kids to explore with electricity in a safe way, due to the specific properties in the hand-made dough.
Ms. Bush teaches a grade 4-5 combo class with 31 kids. Now in her fifth year teaching at Spring Valley, the Yosemite Lakes Park resident explains that Spring Valley currently has a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“The students engage in project-based learning with iPads to ‘show what they know.’ They cover the same topics, whether in language arts, math or science. Working in small groups allows for lots of creativity, and I love it. It forces me to be creative in every lesson, every day.”
The kids like the programs as well. In class, students work on science, including force and motion, with a rocket launching project that requires the budding STEM-sters to design the nose and fin of a rocket for optimal distance.
“They have to determine the angle of the launch and they control the thrust of the rocket by how they mix the reactants of water and alka-seltzer. Now, they’re doing engineering, and exploring the strength and design of different bridges and tunnels.”
Much of what students are learning and demonstrating will be on display at the Tinkers Fair.
“They’re testing the strength of girders and learning that strength depends on the density of material and what we fill the cylinders with,” Ms. Bush continues. “We’re also working with geodesic domes to examine the strength of a triangle in engineering.”
The work kids are doing lends itself well to the new Common Core standards, according to Ms. Bush, as schools make a heavy shift toward critical thinking and creative problem solving.”
“They are doing what scientists and engineers are doing: they plan, make a prototype, test, redesign, and rebuild. They are doing their own projects and facilitating their own learning through doing.”
Stop by Spring Valley on Mar. 22 and see exactly what they’re doing – and join in – at the Tinker Fair.
For more information, click here to see the Chawanakee/Spring Valley School website.