I’m a bit behind in my participation in the Learning Creative Learning MOOC, put on by the MIT Media Lab, P2PU and sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation. So I am going back to last week’s activity, which involves reading Seymore Papert’s essay Gears of My Childhood and then using that essay as an invitation to reflect and write about my own childhood experience with object-based learning.
Unlike Papert, I don’t have an immediate memory of a particular object that influenced my view of the world from a very early age. (It’s probably more of a memory problem than of a lack of interest in an object!) But as I continued to think about influences on my outlook toward learning and curiosity, I found myself thinking of many different influences–most of them including important people in my life: my mom, my dad, and my Grandma Millie come immediately to mind. And then I thought about my experiences making biscuits with my Uncle Bob.
Uncle Bob (actually my dad’s uncle–so my great uncle) lived in a trailer somewhere in the same county where we lived and we would visit on Sunday mornings (I think). He would make biscuits and always invited me and my little sister to help him. (He seemed old from the time I knew him and we were very little girls at the time) We would climb up on a chair of the trailer table and watch closely as he kneaded and smoothed the floury dough. Then he would roll it out and hand each of us a drinking glass, the same kind we would drink 7-up in a bit later, and we would carefully cut the biscuits using the glass. He would then take the biscuits, place them on the pan, and put them in the oven. I still love biscuits, especially when they are made from scratch like that!
And I think the important lesson I learned from that drinking glass/biscuit cutter is that the right tool for the job is often the tool you have access to. Uncle Bob didn’t need fancy biscuit cutters that were just the right size, he just pulled a glass out of the cupboard. And better yet, my sister and I each had one to work on cutting those tasty biscuits from the dough. We all worked together and, in spite of our age, were trusted to do this important work.
And to this day, so many years later, I know that using what you have access to is an important truth to experimenting, to figuring things out, to designing, and to feeling like making is within your grasp. I still don’t have to go out and buy the perfect kit or have the just right materials to get started with exploring…I just have to be interested, and it really helps to have someone like Uncle Bob (or my mom, dad, and Grandma Millie) around to support you as you’re getting started.