Tinkering Through the Tears

March 2, 2017

by Susan White

I have had more students cry in my Maker Space than I have in my entire teaching career! And you know what? It’s a great thing. These tears are the result of learning a new mindset that values process over product. These tears are the first step in true perseverance. These tears show that students are fully invested in what they want to create. Most importantly, these tears give way to the most prideful smiles and cheers of joy I have ever witnessed.

We are not just in this space to build projects, we are here to build our skills and our confidence and our ability to try things we have never done before. I say “we” because my students and I are a team of learners. I have to let go of my preconceived ideas and take as many risks as these kiddos do. When I step out of the way, the students rise to the occasion every time. All I have to do is give them a safe space in which to find their own way.

Just last week, I had a student tell me it was impossible for him to build a car that could actually roll. He was so frozen with the fear of failure that he didn’t want to try and have it go wrong. So I decided to try my own and get it wrong. I showed him what I had, and we had this deep conversation about the difference between challenging and impossible. He started to point out some things on my model I could try to improve. Before he knew it, he was building his own car. He made the wheels bigger, rounded the edges of the wheel using a spool of thread as a guide, created axles out of drinking straws, and handcrafted racing decals with camouflage duct tape. In less than an hour, this 8-year-old had become an engineer, an artist, a problem-solver, a collaborator, and the proud owner of a fully-customized “impossible” rolling car.

These are the everyday moments in a Maker Space. It’s why we believe in this movement and why we welcome the tears. I encourage you to become part of this venture with us! Support our local museums and the wonderful programs that are taking shape in our schools.

These kids are going to change the world, and we are lucky enough to step back and see it happen.


Susan White is the K-5 STEAM/ESL Teacher at Arkansas Arts Academy in Rogers. She is leading the schools participation in the Scott Family Amazeum's efforts to expand making and tinkering capacity in schools in Northwest Arkansas. Making Spaces: Expanding Maker Education Across the Nation is a nationwide program supported by Google, the Maker Education Initiative (MakerEd) and the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. Arkansas Arts Academy is one of six local schools participating in the Amazeum's efforts.