tinker“Apprentices at the Eli Whitney Museum learn to work with their hands.”  – Bill Brown leads ‘tinkering’ workshops at the Eli Whitney Museum. Students ages 13-18 become apprentices where they receive a stipend and learn how to use master tools and conduct workshops for visitors. Experimentation is highly valued.

From a New York Times article on Brown

“Mr. Brown has long worked with youngsters on projects like the clockwork car. Powered by rubberbands, it demonstrates the storage and release of energy just as did the one that Leonardo devised when he studied clock springs.

“As I worked, I discovered kids who were excellent at making things but were struggling academically,” he said.

In his students’ learning habits, Mr. Brown recognized some of his own. Mr. Brown, 47 years old, who has a master’s degree from Columbia University, said that he has awkward handwriting and struggles to synthesize material. The term “dyslexia,” he said, probably fits him and many of his students. It may also have fit Leonardo, who wrote 6,000 pages of disorganized, often-misspelled journal notes.

Hands-On Learning Stressed

But Leonardo trained in a hands-on apprenticeship program and spent his life experimenting, an approach that Mr. Brown endorses.

“How do you help people realize how important the tradition of hands-on learning is? he asked. “Some people need to learn by touching and experimenting. What we’ve tried to do at the museum is find projects that will help people understand, learn by experiment and experience. We look for ways to demonstrate what this component of learning means.”

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