I love making stuff. I especially love making stuff out of junk–or upcycling. I find the amount of things people can make from trash fascinating. I tried one upcycling program out over the summer. I had a whole bunch of toilet paper and paper towel tubes that I had collected and I had all these amazing projects that the kids do with them. I wanted to give them ideas and then have them take the reins. I didn’t want to tell them exactly what to do. I wanted them to use their creativity and their imagination. When I explained the concept of the class, and set them loose, they just stared at me, lost as to how to proceed. And then one of the participants raised a hand and asked, “So what do you want us to do exactly?”
I was flabbergasted. As a kid, I hated being spoon-fed projects. I never wanted to do what everyone else was doing and I hated waiting around when we were all doing the same activity but at different speeds. I liked the freedom and encouragement to have my own ideas and to run with them. So when my kids just stared at me like deer in the headlights, I knew my mission. I had to get them comfortable with experimenting, with trying (and failing), with being bold.
I don’t know where the fostering of independence and the encouragement of exploration is being lost–but mark me, it is being lost. I get too many, “Oh no Miss Molly, I can’t do that”s when it comes to cutting things with x-acto knives, or threading needles, or pouring hot water into cups.
I can understand the hesitation if the kids were under 9 and I wasn’t supervising, but the kids I am doing these projects with are 10 to 12. At that age, I was being left home alone, given tools and told to build a wall, and cooking for myself and my family. I realize my upbringing is different from most, but still…pouring hot water?
So, when I had an idea for a simple metal working program, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to give the kids the opportunity to branch out. I had a bunch of metal silverware that I wanted the kids to create objects with using hammers, pliers, and brute strength.
As a precaution, I made up 6 or so projects that they could do. I limited their choices, but still gave them choices. I also told them that I was not doing the projects for them. If they got stuck, I explained what they had to do to continue, but didn’t do the step for them.
Apparently that is exactly what they needed. They worked with the ideas I gave them, but made each project uniquely their own, which was absolutely awesome to see. There were only a few cases of “Miss Molly I can’t” which I quickly pointed out that were not the case. One little girl was saying she couldn’t do it, as she was doing it. I told her to step back and look. Once she got that perspective, she gained the confidence to continue.
These are some of the objects we made out of forks and spoons.
We have a a four legged octopus, a twisted fork holding a stone, and fork bracelet and a spoon handle ring. Their pieces came out great. They were really creative, and took my ideas to the next level. It was fantastic to see. And they had a great time. When they showed their parents what they made, they were impressed, which is always great to see.
Moral of the story: If at first you don’t succeed, tweak your idea and keep trying!