Un-making & Learning

Usually we think about kids making things, but the other day I realized that un-making things can be every bit as important. Maybe it’s how we begin tinkering & building things, learning how existing things work by taking them apart.

It started with my daughter and her friend asked to watch a movie. IMG_9401_1I suggested they go out in the garage instead to tear apart some equipment that I’d gotten for our maker group to build things with. The old equipment was made mostly of 80/20 extruded aluminum (some call it erector set material for adults) and it was held together with lots of things that needed to be unscrewed and disassembled.

I was a bit uneasy thinking that it wouldn’t go over well. I wasn’t sure they would like it. But turns out I was wrong… they loved it!! 45 minutes later there was nothing but a pile of pieces laying on the garage floor!

In the process, I learned something from watching/helping the kids take it apart. I really never thought about how to use a screwdriver, you just sort of well… do it. But then in watching it hit me at some point I must have learned from someone else.

Little things like knowing how the blade or hex wrench should go into the screw head, keeping the screwdriver straight up so it doesn’t slip out and get the best torque – even using the long side for leverage with an allen wrench to break the screw loose are things that is best experienced. With some occasional guidance and encouragement you also don’t give up on the task and keep learning. Kinesthetic, hands on learning isn’t the same as reading it in a book or watching a video. And the girls started encouraging each other and before long I was hearing “I get to do that one…”  – and they were having fun while doing it!!

So get out and help some kids take things apart. Building things is good fun too – don’t miss the opportunity to help them learn the tactile and hands-on portion of learning to use tools and components whether it’s making or ‘un-making’ things. Goodness knows there’s not as much in schools anymore.
Maker Materials
In fact, we’re going to host a tear down session of more equipment for the Castlemakers group this Saturday @ 11 am. We got lucky enough to get more old equipment to tear apart. Join us if you’d like – I can’t promise how long after that it will stay assembled, but we’re going to have fun tearing it all apart!!


I’ve been negligent by not talking about some other maker events going on here in Greencastle. Putnam County Library has been having Maker Tuesdays – short 1-2 hour events at the Public Library. I’ve only seen a flyer on it posted at the library but I was able to find something on the Putnam County Library online calendar. There’s another event coming up Tuesday July 29th, or stop by and I’m sure they can give you more information.

2 thoughts on “Un-making & Learning”

  1. Chris, I have used unmaking or teardowns for many years. Kids love to take things apart! Sometimes they even put them back together. The important thing is that they learn to use tools properly and how they are intended to be used.

    While my son was still in High School, he and his younger sister took apart an old electric car I had sitting in the garage. They never did get around to putting it back together, however they had a great time tearing it down and they learned a lot about the mechanics of automobiles and how electric cars are built.

    Eventually my son went off to college where he became an engineer and professor. My daughter helped me tear apart the engine in a Ford escort and she actually completed the rebuild with new piston rings, new valves, seals and bearings. She drove the escort to High School and often gave many of the boys in her class advice on how to maintain their cars. Once she was on a date with a young man, when his engine light came on. He was in a panic, while she calmly asked him to pull off the road so she could check the engine! She discovered that his oil level was dangerously low and had him stop at a car parts place to purchase some new oil. With additional oil in the crankcase. the engine light went off and they were on their way! My daughter is now an accomplished industrial designer living in Indy.

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