AN UPDATE ON THE CURIOSITY LAB BUILD-OUT FROM SHAUN AYLWARD:
The build-out of the Curiosity Lab, the bulk of which will necessarily happen during the summer, has nonetheless begun in earnest. Components and systems which may be developed ahead of time, stored, and installed later are the focus of recent work.
Here’s a few examples of recent development:
Workstation Design & Fabrication
The workbench is where theory intermingles with practice. Likewise at sawhorses, lab tables, and paint splattered sinks intentions, ideas, and interpretative theories swirl together with material expressions. The Curiosity Lab will be outfitted with a plurality of surfaces, nooks, and levels to accommodate learners and activities of all sorts and sizes and allow for freedom and flexibility of use. Some areas will suit individual efforts, others will be optimized for collaboration.
Fabrication of multi-media workbenches is underway as of February break. This particular piece of furniture borrows some elements from traditional cabinet-making benches, including integrated face and tail vises and heavy construction. They are built of dimensional lumber and plywood underlayment, however, to avoid any tincture of preciousness and to keep material costs under control. Instead, these workbenches are constructed of a series of torsion boxes, bolted together with threaded rod. They will be extremely heavy (250+ lbs.), to handle whatever projects are thrown at them.
A thoughtful, systematic approach for the production of pedagogical documentation will be a unifying feature of life in the Curiosity Lab. There are a few requirements we are imposing on this practice -
- Learners are involved in the documentation of their work, with increasing autonomy as they move up the grade levels. The more documenting resembles storytelling, the better.
- The form the documentation takes is a rich, qualitative, interactive, and sharable display which traces the learner’s thinking and process, not just captures a product outcome.
- The process of creating documentation is fun and engaging.
To these ends, we are developing a “documentation station,” an area of the Curiosity Lab designed to enable learners to capture layered, complex, and multi-sensory data about their experiences in the Lab. One of the anchoring components of this station is a turntable which synchs to an app (http://spin.media.mit.edu/), allowing a user to take a set of photographs which capture every angle on their project, or prototype, or atypical pinecone found on a walk by the Fore River. The app automatically compiles the images into an animation, which can be exported and shared across multiple platforms. We are also developing a web platform for the organization, display, and sharing of such documentation. The station will include a computer, cameras, and a microphone for recording first-person accounts.
Learners will ultimately decide what the documentation coming out of the Curiosity Lab will look like, as they will decide how exactly to use the tools at their disposal.
Permanent Interactive Components
A continuously co-curated collection of rich and colorful provocation, of things which resist easy classification, of the extraordinary, apparently magical, or difficult to apprehend, is central to the operational reality of the Curiosity Lab. In design, the Curiosity Lab will be connected conceptually to medieval and early Renaissance wunderkammern and have at least spiritual ties to classical paradoxography, as much as to American progressivism, constructivism, and the contemporary maker and studio crafts movements. As such, the Lab will display both permanent and rotating interactive components, somewhat like a museum. These will serve as provocation for further exploration and project development and may at times be presented thematically. Several long-term or permanent components are in development or are being fabricated.
Shaun Aylward, Grades 5-8 Tinkering Essentialist and Enrichment Arts Coordinator