Arkansas: Tinkering Part III

January 26th-28th, 2012

This summer the seven museums in the Arkansas museum network will each be opening a brand new tinkering studio, developed and created in a joint effort between the Exploratorium’s tinkering and consulting groups. In part three of their workshop series the group gathered at the Museum of Discovery to experience the first Arkansas tinkering studio and try their hand at facilitating with the public.


  • Get introduced to the Museum of Discovery studio, its components, and our design principles.
  • Gain experience facilitating an activity and discussing material and environmental choices
  • Continue building community and developing strategies for documenting and talking about tinkering.


  • Aiona Bones (educator and¬†liaison, consulting, Exploratorium)
  • Sam Dean (director, consulting, Exploratorium)
  • Joel Gordon (head tinkerer and so much more, Arkansas Museum of Discovery)


Arkansas Discovery Network

  • Diane LaFollette
  • Kathleen Lawson

Museum of Discovery, Little Rock

  • Thomas Lipham
  • David

Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources, Smackover

  • Pam Beasley
  • Rhonda Millican
  • Sherry Franques

Mid-American Science Museum, Hot Springs

  • Mindy Porter
  • Casey Wylie

Texarkana Museums System, Texarkana, TX

  • Ray Lane

University of Arkansas Discovery Zone, Fayetteville

  • Lynne Hehr
  • JP McCauley

Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, Pine Bluff

  • Zac Ray

Arkansas State University Museum, Jonesboro

  • Jill Kary
  • Valerie Ponder


Day 1


Each museum took a few minutes to introduce themselves and share something they took away from our last two tinkering experiences together. Then Sam presented a review of what we’ve already done together and what’s yet to come.

Marble Machines, Wind Tubes, and Circuit Boards

We feel that it’s critical to have your own experience with each tinkering activity before facilitating for others, so we started this workshop by taking lots of time to explore three new activities. The group broke up into three smaller groups and spent an hour with each activity, freely exploring, and then reflecting on their experience.

Day 2

Activity Reflection

As a large group we spent an hour discussing yesterdays activities, paying attention to materials, environment, and facilitation. We brainstormed a list of common threads and noticed places where the activities differed.

Design Presentation

Sam presented the tinkering studio components, discussed the design principles we followed while designing them, and gave a brief overview of how the design process will continue with each museum.

Identifying Audiences

Each museum regrouped to consider their audience, including who they are, why they come, how many are there, etc. Sam and Aiona gathered this information to guide studio design. It also sparked some interesting conversations on common museum challenges, threads to be picked up at the networks next group meeting.

Zoetrope and Cycloid Station

We returned to the tinkering studio to try out a couple table top exhibits. Each museum will be getting a zoetrope and cycloid station in a couple of weeks, and pledged to try them on the floor.

Preparing for Facilitation

participants set up the room in preparation for tomorrow, thinking carefully about visitor flow, materials, example choices, and facilitation strategies. When each group was done they shared with each other how they set up marble run, circuit boards, and wind tubes, and shared open questions they had about how it would go with visitors.

Day 3

Facilitating with the Public

Participants spent most of the day doing the activities with the public. They took turns with each activity, marble run, wind tube and circuit boards, and had time to both facilitate and observe.


We circled back up at the end of the day to share success stories and talk about things we noticed or learned while facilitating and observing. Everyone was so full of ideas it was hard to end.

Photos and Videos:

Additional Resources:

  • At the end of the day on Saturday there was so much to say we eventually had to kick everyone out.¬†Click here for some of our favorite quotes from that final conversation.
  • Most of the tinkering activities and it’s philosophy was developed by the tinkering studio group at the Exploratorium. Click here to link to their incredible website.