In my middle school drama club, our director used to tell students to leave their squabbles at the door. That’s part of being an actor, he would say: we use the emotions but not the circumstance.
We make the circumstance.
Beginning our meeting standing in a circle and focusing our energies may not be a traditional approach to STEM studies but it fit perfectly in the group that met at the Center for College Access and Success on the third Saturday in February. Soon, our centered thoughts turned to physics phenomena, but we presented them not as solutions — we did not consider what magnets have done — but what magnets can do — we did not consider hinges simply as a solution to making a door open but what “living” hinges, through the forces of torsion, can do…
Through our quest to increase computational thinking, it’s important to note what we didn’t do, as much as what we did do, because, so often, creative thinking can be shut down when the answer is simply seen as wrong.
Several very cool activities were envisioned by the high school students working on this project and while they considered building giant skeletal frames and light-up boxes, the emphasis was not on the one final way that this could be made to work, but on the process through which makers would embark: the computational thinking would be inherent to the process and not an outcome simply of the gains. Our inspirations were diverse but we recalled the meaningful words of Papert that “the role of the teacher is to provide the conditions for invention, rather than provide ready-made knowledge.”
Standing in a circle at the beginning of the workshop — and informally working in similar groups by the end — we considered physics, not devoid of emotion, but drawn by our wonder.