New Materialities and Maker Paradigms in Schools
Field Notes (Prosthetic Hand)
“Bones and motion. Study your own hand,” Isabella says as she distributes chicken wings. “How do muscles work?” she asks, as the girls begin dissecting them.
Later, she huddles with a team that’s having trouble. Popsicle sticks, glue, tape, strings, and a yellow glove are scattered across their workbench. The girls are frustrated; one keeps walking away. “So if this is the hand,” Isabella says, clenching her fingers to make a fist, and then opening them again, “How would this work?” She’s pointing to the string and stick assemblage. After a moment she leaves the girls to puzzle it some more by themselves. As she passes me, she whispers, “I’d have thrown it across the floor. I would have hated a project like this at their age.”
At a different bench, I hear her say, “This is the way real science works. You experiment, you iterate, you experiment again.”
The assignment is to build a hand-like appendage that can grasp, lift, and release an empty soda can. Arrayed across the tables, students find cardboard, rubber bands, drinking straws, rubber gloves, plastic zip ties, and other household materials. They are to represent their learning by building a prosthetic hand that shares structural characteristics with real hands. For example, “bones” might be made of Popsicle sticks, and “tendons” of rubber bands. ← 97 | 98 → But when a team suggests cotton balls for bones, Isabella understands that deep learning is not yet taking root.
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