Arkansas Takes On Tinkering

By Aiona Bones on January 25, 2012

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Visitors wandered in to The Museum of Discovery‘s new tinkering studio this month for the first time, some pulling rambunctiously on their parent’s shirt sleeves, while others poked around with tentative curiosity. Before long a young contingent had made the commitment to sit down and build something.

While the visitors tinkered, a small team of facilitators, armed with extra tips and tools, wove in and out of the crowd, admiring creations and offering nudges when necessary. Sam Dean and I traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas to be there for the grand opening. This studio is the first of seven that the Exploratorium will build this year for museums throughout the state, so we took careful notes about how visitors approached the activities, thinking about adaptations we’ll need to make for each museum’s unique personality.

I also spent a lot of time simply enjoying being in the space, now that it’s full of creative and curious makers, the way that I always imagined it being during the months of envisioning, design, and professional development leading up this. Here’s a peak at the tinkering studio in action, and congratulations to The Museum of Discovery, the original tinkering studio at the Exploratorium, and exhibit services for pulling together such a wonderful, warm, and thoughtful space.


This is glimpse of the kinetic entry sign. Welcome to the tinkering studio.


This boy wired an old toy part to two switches to transform it into a robot that quacks and dances on command.


Two master tinkerers perfect flying mechanisms to try out in the wind tube. These are the third ones they’ve built today.


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