Gifted Kids and Hands-On Engineering

The Do-It-Yourself Movement

by Carol Fertig

The October 2010 issue of The Atlantic contains an article titled School for Hackers: The Do-It-Yourself Movement Revives Learning by Doing. The article is consistent with the project-based learning concept where students explore real-world problems and challenges.

Because we have become so used to providing young people with ready-made toys and technology, we often miss opportunities for them to use their own ingenuity to problem solve and create. In addition, we are not passing down what used to be common knowledge about folk crafts, creative cooking, model building, woodworking, gardening, collecting, etc. There is a movement now to revive the do-it-yourself (DIY) philosophy and get kids involved in building and creating.

Through the do-it-yourself movement, students learn research skills, understand subject matter at a deeper level, and are more deeply engaged in their work.

When a kid builds a model rocket, or a kite, or a birdhouse, she not only picks up math, physics, and chemistry along the way, she also develops her creativity, resourcefulness, planning abilities, curiosity, and engagement with the world around her.

There are many resources that will help you introduce kids to the DIY movement.

  • Hobby shops—both store fronts and online varieties have all kinds of materials and kits.
  • Knitting, sewing, and quilting stores not only have supplies, but also often offer free or low-cost instruction.
  • Home Depot often has building classes specifically for children.
  • Local summer camps, workshops, and clubs such as Tinkering School in Los Angeles. Whether or not you live in Los Angeles, check out this website. There are some great sections for everyone, such as Fifty Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do.
  • Magazines such as Make where you will find an archive of fun projects for kids of all ages.

This blog post initially appeared on the Gifted Child Info Blog on October 8, 2010.