Not sure if you can relate to that picture above, but if you can, you likely have a child somewhere in your world between the age of 5 and 15.
I've always known the value of duct tape, having worked for years at the NASA Ames Research Center. Duct tape was frequently used by engineers and scientists, and you've heard of Apollo 13, right? The makeshift scrubber modification that saved the lives of the three astronauts relied on...you've got it....duct tape. Yes, true story!
My children know this story...and they certainly know the value of duct tape for making just about anything.....that.....well...doesn't otherwise have a purpose. Every family member at our Christmas celebration was excited to receive a personally designed duct tape wallet, made with love, by one of the twingles. Their love for duct tape is right up there with their passion for soccer, football, and their mother....I mean math.
But that duct tape, believe it or not, has a special place in the lives of young people. It is the tool, the special technology, that instills and breeds creativity. Sure, duct tape wallets are pretty standard. If you're having a slumber party and end up with a home full of pre-teens, you'll find they've all honed these design skills. But when they get beyond the wallets, the sky is the limit to what they can discover, build, design, repurpose, and repair.
And these skills are critically important.
Whether they are building with duct tape or collaboratively designing room after room, city after city in MineCraft, they are often engaged in a type of open-ended, mistake free, limitless process of creating what seems to make little sense to, let's say, parents! As an educator, I'll also add that they are often more engaged in these types of design activities than in some of their school work.
What is clear in activities that allow them to build and create is that children are excited! The skills of trying to make something that seemingly has no role in the world is downright fun, although not always so fun for the parents who try to find a home for the dozens of purposeless items.
This brings us to Maker Spaces, locations that many of our schools are starting to create that intentionally gather "stuff" that taps the creativity of our students. From sewing machines to coding on iPads and stop gap animation stations to 3-D printers, the Maker Movement is creating makers instead of just consumers. Our students have the amazing opportunity that their parents' generation didn't have - time to tinker and solve problems in the world by making.
Yes, the duct tape wallet or the beautifully wrapped packing foam might not seem to have a usable intent for the rest of us, but the boxing glove that my little brown-haired twin made it into....it certainly had a purpose! Note to my little blonde-haired twin - look out!
When you give makers the tools they need, including tools that might not seem to have any usable form from the adult perspective, you're giving children the opportunity to change the world.
Would anyone like a duct tape wallet? Pick a color, any color!