Last year one of our kids was fortunate to attend Tinkering School. It is a one-week long overnight camp run by Gever Tulley and his wife. During the camp the kids make stuff. The camp is run from Tulley’s home in Montara, California, a coastal town just south of San Franciscso. There may be other camps like it elsewhere, though I have not heard of any. (If you know of others email and we’ll make a list).
Tinkering School is an intimate, smart, very hands-on, very expensive overnight camp. Each class is only eight kids. They bunk in rooms in Tulley’s house and tinker in a very classy, cool, and welcoming workshop on his large property.
The workshop is well-stocked. Each kid gets their own cordless driver and roll of duct tape. Besides Gever there’s another instructor. After each day of tinkering they post on their daily blog the results of what they made or built that day. Some of the projects are individual and some are group-based. All are do-able — able to be completed in a few days but still challenging.
The most important thing the kids learn in attempting these "make" projects is the skill of re-design, alteration, modification of things that don’t always work at first. You might call it Re-Makers Camp.
For instance my son worked on a multi-seated human powered row bike. The thing kind of worked, but there were many things that they had to keep improving. Better designs, better construction. Keeping them going is the true art.
My kid will be returning this year. They just announced the schedule for this year. Because the class size is so small the slots fill up fast. (Did I mention it was expensive? It costs $1,000 per week, food, lodging, tools, and instruction included.) Gever has talked about helping others to set up similar tinkering schools in their part of the land. I think it is a great idea. Running one would be GeekDad Plus. You are doing the same things you do with your own kid, only with a few others, and full time for a week. Could be neat. If you want to help launch a network of tinkering schools email Tulley directly at his website.