04:06
TED2009

Gever Tulley: Life lessons through tinkering

Filmed:

Gever Tulley uses engaging photos and footage to demonstrate the valuable lessons kids learn at his Tinkering School. When given tools, materials and guidance, these young imaginations run wild and creative problem-solving takes over to build unique boats, bridges and even a roller coaster!

- Tinkerer
The founder of the Tinkering School, Gever Tulley likes to build things with kids. Full bio

This is the exact moment
00:12
that I started creating something called Tinkering School.
00:16
Tinkering School is a place where kids can pick up sticks
00:21
and hammers and other dangerous objects,
00:25
and be trusted.
00:29
Trusted not to hurt themselves,
00:31
and trusted not to hurt others.
00:33
Tinkering School doesn't follow a set curriculum,
00:37
and there are no tests.
00:40
We're not trying to teach anybody any specific thing.
00:42
When the kids arrive
00:46
they're confronted with lots of stuff:
00:49
wood and nails and rope and wheels,
00:51
and lots of tools, real tools.
00:55
It's a six-day immersive experience for the kids.
01:00
And within that context, we can offer the kids time --
01:05
something that seems in short supply
01:09
in their over-scheduled lives.
01:12
Our goal is to ensure that they leave
01:15
with a better sense of how to make things
01:18
than when they arrived,
01:20
and the deep internal realization
01:23
that you can figure things out by fooling around.
01:26
Nothing ever turns out as planned ... ever.
01:30
(Laughter)
01:35
And the kids soon learn
01:37
that all projects go awry --
01:39
(Laughter)
01:43
and become at ease with the idea that every step
01:44
in a project is a step closer
01:46
to sweet success,
01:49
or gleeful calamity.
01:52
We start from doodles and sketches.
01:56
And sometimes we make real plans.
02:00
And sometimes we just start building.
02:03
Building is at the heart of the experience:
02:07
hands on, deeply immersed
02:10
and fully committed to the problem at hand.
02:13
Robin and I, acting as collaborators,
02:17
keep the landscape of the projects
02:20
tilted towards completion.
02:22
Success is in the doing,
02:25
and failures are celebrated and analyzed.
02:28
Problems become puzzles
02:31
and obstacles disappear.
02:34
When faced with particularly difficult
02:38
setbacks or complexities,
02:40
a really interesting behavior emerges: decoration.
02:42
(Laughter)
02:47
Decoration of the unfinished project
02:50
is a kind of conceptual incubation.
02:52
From these interludes come deep insights
02:56
and amazing new approaches to solving the problems
02:59
that had them frustrated just moments before.
03:02
All materials are available for use.
03:07
Even those mundane, hateful, plastic grocery bags
03:12
can become a bridge
03:18
stronger than anyone imagined.
03:20
And the things that they build
03:24
amaze even themselves.
03:27
Video: Three, two, one, go!
03:30
Gever Tulley: A rollercoaster built by seven-year-olds.
03:41
Video: Yay!
03:45
(Applause)
03:48
GT: Thank you. It's been a great pleasure.
03:50
(Applause)
03:53

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About the Speaker:

Gever Tulley - Tinkerer
The founder of the Tinkering School, Gever Tulley likes to build things with kids.

Why you should listen

Gever Tulley writes the best Twitters: Just landed my paraglider in an empty field behind Santa 8arbara. ... Making amazing tshirts with a laser cutter at the maker faire in austin. ... Washing fruit, putting sheets on bunkbeds, and grinding up aluminum foil in a cheap blender ... Updating the school blog, trying to figure out how many cubic feet of air are in a 5 gallon cylinder at 200 PSI. ... Trying to figure out if the tinker kids are going to be able to get molten iron from magnetite sand ...

A software engineer, Gever Tulley is the co-founder of the Tinkering School, a weeklong camp where lucky kids get to play with their very own power tools. He's interested in helping kids learn how to build, solve problems, use new materials and hack old ones for new purposes. He's also a certified paragliding instructor.

More profile about the speaker
Gever Tulley | Speaker | TED.com