Gever Tully started a Tinkering School for kids, an exploratory curriculum designed to teach kids how to build the things they think of. By exploratory he means setting kids loose in a shop full of tools and materials (with supervision) and encouragement to “fool around”.  In his wonderful TED talk, Tully describes the “deep internal realization” kids have from the experience, which happen to be the same ones you get (at any age) from improvising:

“that you can figure things out as you fool around”…
…nothing turns out as planned – ever…
…all projects go awry…
…success is in the doing (failures are celebrated and analyzed; problems become puzzles)…”

As I watched Tulley’s talk, I thought: I want to go there! I want a tinkering school for grownups!

Dean Kaufman/The New York Times

Then I stumbled on an article in the New York Times about Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Vermont which IS for adults. It teaches both design and construction, with a focus on “natural building”, to people of all ages and experience levels. The course offerings are vast; they are based on three scales of the design/build process: Whole Buidlings and Communities (large); Materials, Methods and Building Systems (medium); and Architectural Craft and Woodworking (small scale). Here’s a sampling:

Deconstruction & Material Re-Use
Strawbale Design/Build
Ply Like and Eagle
Fabric Formed Concrete
Rigging Rolling & Raising
Thinking Like a Mountain
Do-It-Yourself Home Energy…
…in addition to basic carpentry, plumbing, electrical, powertools…welding…


Yestermorrow encourages you to envision, design and build cool things, like the wheelchair-accessible treehouse (above).

What would you build if you could?

What great thing has tinkering lead you to create?

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6 replies on “tinkering schools for kids and adults

  1. I’m learning permaculture from someone who also teaches at Yestermorrow, right here in NYC. Though I would love, love, love to take some time and go up to the school in Vermont and learn some hands-on. I want to learn it all! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow! Wonder if you mind me asking: How are you planning to apply permaculture? Will you do it here in the city? AND, could you recommend a basic site for those who are new to the idea? Thanks!

  3. Permaculture is a broad generalist’s dream, and I’m a serious generalist, or dabbler. My interests vary, and so my plans for permaculture, or rather, permaculture’s plans for me vary as well. 🙂

    First, I’m applying permaculture to my business of helping people reduce allergy and asthma triggers in their homes by identifying toxins in everyday household items.

    Second, after I earn my chops, I’d like to consult on retrofits or new projects here in the city, whether residential, commercial, or public use.

    Third, well, this one’s under wraps, but I may reveal a bit in my blog after I present my big project (on Halloween!).

    And for people curious about permaculture, here are a few resources:

    Permaculture Institute (New Mexico)

    Permaculture Activist

    NYC Permaculture Meetup Group

    And this is who I’m studying with:

    Center for Bioregional Living

    Thanks for asking! Love your blog!

  4. I tried to answer your questions the other day, and for some reason they never showed up!

    So here’s another go at it.

    I initially planned on applying permaculture to my business, helping people reduce allergy and asthma triggers through identification and removal of household toxins.

    While I’m still going to do that, I have other plans… which I’ll reveal in fuller detail after i present my final project on Halloween!

    I will be applying permaculture in the city because I think this is the best place to apply it… where it’s needed most.

  5. Liz, I discovered your great comment caught in the spam filter…really sorry. I appreciate the info and the links. Permaculture is amazing!
    (And please let me know about your big project presented Yikes! today, on Halloween.

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