Since joining the Maker Jawn team, I’ve watched many kids break a number of different tools. Most notably a button-pin maker, a sewing machine and a blender. None of these were broken beyond repair but they were out of commission until myself or another mentor could fix them outside of scheduled programming.
Being the newest mentor with the program, one of my biggest struggles so far has been finding the line between letting kids experiment with materials/tools but also preventing them from breaking things.
I can’t speak officially for the other mentors, but it seems like there’s a consensus between us as well as other educators that kids’ compulsion to destroy and break things is much more complicated than just destruction; they learn about boundaries, it may serve a therapeutic purpose, they’re expressing their power and independence, etc. As a mentor in our maker spaces, I am meant to foster independent thinking and creativity in our makers but also ensure the tools to do so are there.
Every time something has broken, I’ve attempted to calmly explain it will no longer work and why.
The blender broke just a few days ago while we were making paper pulp to use for seed bombs. Initially, I had been adding the materials to the blender but when it seemed like the kids had an understanding of what we were doing, I let them take over. Things went smoothly for about ten minutes when we all notice a plastic-burning smell and I realize one of the kids has been holding down every button on the blender, as opposed to just one. I had them stop, lifted the pitcher off the blender, and we all saw smoke coming off the machine. I explained to them it would be a bad idea to continue using the blender since it was apparently burning somewhere internally and that this was likely caused by being overworked.
Of course no one was reprimanded. A maker space is meant to encourage experimentation, right? But I hope there was an understanding that; yes, you can push a tool to the edge and it may still work. However, its not hard to push a tool completely over the edge and out of commission.
From my experience working with Maker Jawn so far, it seems evident that making mistakes and failing is as important as succeeding.