Steaming the cauldron of creative magic

Woodwork and carpentry. 

Not quite the skills of choice that traditional schools like to cultivate in children. 

But we at ILM have always thought differently. We’ve looked beyond the obvious and celebrated the outcome and the impact. 

This is why we encouraged our tiny tots to enroll for a series of woodwork and carpentry workshops curated by Steam Magic, a leading name in experiential learning. 

It Starts with the “WHY”: 

Why carpentry? Why woodwork? Why not the basics of coding?  

The main reason behind this introduction in October of last year was the need to acquaint our kids with Design Thinking – an in-demand executive skill. 

Design Thinking in layman’s terms is a problem solving methodology that relies on gathering information about user needs, crafting a solution that fits these needs, and deploying it in sprints through prototypes. 

Carpentry ticked all the checkboxes. 

The children needed to identify the problem they wanted to solve (creating a bookshelf in the shape of a unicorn? Well, the first step is understanding the fact that you need more space to stash your books), then they had to “imagine” the form of the solution (in this case the final product), and then actually work with coordination and precision to get to the end result. 

The prospect of creating something (anything) from scratch gave them lofty ideas, truly stirring the creative juices – while the constraints of what they could actually build on their own helped them understand the concept of feasibility and allowed them to discard the more whimsical projects in favor of the ones that would be stable and useful. 

It was a fascinating process – both for the children, and the facilitators. 

While Design Thinking was our finish line, the workshops went above and beyond. 

  • As the children worked with the wood pieces and the tools, their minds and bodies began to function in tandem – something their iPads rarely give them the opportunity to achieve. 
  • The dichotomy between art and STEM was blurred through the love of creation. While boys wanted to build lego robots, the girls wanted to make their own toy house. In the end creativity and ingenuity were the winners. 

A Word about Safety: 

We at ILM understood that carpentry was an unconventional choice. And since the use of power tools was involved, we took precautions to make sure that no untoward incidents marred the fun and the learning. 

“Wood”nt Work without Safety Gear
  • All the children worked under the guidance and supervision of Steam Magic’s experienced facilitators. 
  • The kids wore safety glasses and worked in a dust-free environment. 
  • They were given appropriate gear. Work shoes and gloves. 
  • And most importantly, each tool they used was familiar to them, thanks to the orientation they received from Steam Magic. 

The 13 Session Journey – From Ideation to Execution: 

We are used to ILM’s little ones surprising us with their ability to think out of the box. This was no exception. Granted there were a fair number of boxes being made… but there were trains, planes, tree-houses, and even wooden snakes discussed, finessed, and created. 

Sessions 1 – 3: 

The first three sessions were focused on: 

  • Project Management 
  • Basic woodwork skills 
  • Prototyping

The children broke their projects into smaller steps. During brainstorming they allowed themselves the freedom to think big. Rocket and spaceship big! 

Once they sketched out their designs, it was time to debate practicality. This is where their newly acquired knowledge of woodwork spanning cutting, joinery and re-design proved helpful. 

Under the watchful eye of their Steam Magic mentor’s ILM’s children transitioned to prototyping

They better understood the size and scope of their chosen project. And they identified their Minimum Viable Product – the most basic version of their design that could be called technically “complete”, without the embellishments. 

Sessions 4 – 5: 

Now the (saw) dust began to fly. 

Implementation was in full swing. 

It was a pleasure to see playful Adya’s doll-house take shape. 

Practical Anushree was very clear about the design and specifications of her clock. 

Atif decided to let Adya’s doll’s park their car in his wood garage. Even though his enthusiasm to finish the project led to a broken first attempt, he dusted off the grit and went back to work with increased determination. 

Maryam embodied true Montessori spirit and once she had made progress on her organiser, she went around assisting the younger students. 

Tarun was one tiny tot with a plethora of possibilities. He built a park and enjoyed expanding it with a basketball court, a swimming pool, and a toy area.

The children spent considerable time measuring and marking on the wood for cutting, drilling, and nailing purposes. They explored the magic of 3D shapes and how two shapes can come together to create something absolutely new and unique. 

The Steam Magic facilitators ensured that each kid got to lead and follow, enjoying both facets of group work. 

Sessions 6-7: 

The children soon graduated to painting and textures. This was after their MVPs had seen the light of day. 

They explored different color combinations and textures. 

They sought the opinion of their mentors who did an excellent job of laying down the impact of their embellishment choices, without taking away their freedom to make decisions. 

Sessions 8-13: 

The final few sessions were all about redesigning. 

There were errors corrected and compensated for. If a design did not really match up to the initial sketch and specs – changes were made to bring them closer to the original intention. 

The huge win from the entire exercise was the fact that students not only understood how mathematical measurements, complementary and supplementary colours, and basic shapes work in real life, they also had the confidence to drive the entire project with little to no intervention from adults. 

They owned their labor from start to finish, and the culmination lit up the final exhibition. 

The Exhibition: The Grand Finale 

Proud faces beamed all around as the exhibition day rolled around on 25th January. 

The ILM grounds were decked with wondrous creations – more so because they had come to life at the hands of our children. 

Each student was given a stand to display their final product, complete with an important little name card to identify the owner of the creation. 

Lots of pinks, blues, bright yellows, greens. Lots of straight lines, curved edges, and even some sophisticated criss-crosses. 

An Explosion of Colors, Shapes and Ideas.

Over 13 fun-filled and superbly organised sessions Steam Magic helped the children at ILM gain the ability to pick up a hammer and nail and actually fix things at home – instead of throwing them away. 

We are certain that these skills will stay with the little ones in big ways and we look forward to the next session of experiential learning with Steam Magic.