O’Reilly news

Tinkering: Kids Learn by Making Stuff--New Book from Maker Media

October 7, 2013

Sebastopol, CA—How can you consistently pull off hands-on tinkering with kids? How do you deal with questions that you can't answer? How do you know if tinkering kids are learning anything or not? Is there a line between fooling around with real stuff and learning?

Tinkering: Kids Learn by Making Stuff lets you discover how, why—and even what it is—to tinker and tinker well.

Author Curt Gabrielson draws on more than 20 years of experience doing hands-on science to facilitate tinkering: Learning science while fooling around with real things.

Written to give adults insights and strategies for getting kids to learn through tinkering, this book shows you how to make:

  • A torsion drum from plastic cups
  • Magnetic toys that dance and sway—even a magic wand
  • Catapults and table-top ball games
  • The "Moose Call" membranophone
  • A tornado in a bottle, a "steadiness" circuit, and much more

From the dawn of time, whenever humanity has wanted to know more, we have achieved it most effectively by getting our hands dirty and making careful observations of real stuff. In short, we have learned primarily by tinkering.

Despite a clear need for it, tinkering is still stuck in a charming-but-unnecessary peripheral corner in society's collective mind.

While I did learn a good bit at MIT, what I learned on the hog farm of my youth turned out to be much more applicable to life, says Gabrielson. Building multi-level tree houses, exploring the bottom of the pond with a garden-hose breathing system, and rigging up baby pig incubators near the woodstove were just what I needed to meet the challenge of making education real and relevant for kids.

It is entirely possible for your kids or students to learn a good bit about a cell phone, laptop, doorbell, or toilet by tinkering around with it. The information they acquire may (or may not) prove useful, but the process of getting it can bring them joy and prepare them for further forays into learning with their hands.

Additional Resources

For more information about the book, including table of contents, author bios, and cover graphic, see http://shop.oreilly.com/product/0636920028895.do

About Curt Gabrielson

Curt Gabrielson runs the Watsonville Environmental Science Workshop and works with science education in East Timor. He has been a science educator for more than 20 years, with positions in the California public schools, the National University of East Timor, and San Francisco’s Exploratorium Teacher Institute.

About Maker Media

Maker Media is a global platform for connecting makers with each other, with products and services, and with our partners. Through media, events and ecommerce, Maker Media serves a growing community of makers who bring a DIY mindset to technology. Whether as hobbyists or professionals, makers are creative, resourceful and curious, developing projects that demonstrate how they can interact with the world around them. The launch of MAKE Magazine in 2005, followed by Maker Faire in 2006, jumpstarted a worldwide Maker Movement, which is transforming innovation, culture and education. Located in Sebastopol, CA, Maker Media is the publisher of MAKE Magazine and the producer of Maker Faire. It also develops "getting started" kits and books that are sold in its Maker Shed store as well as in retail channels.

Media Contact

Gretchen Giles


(707) 570-7887

About O’Reilly

O’Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O’Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying “faint signals” from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.

Email a link to this press release