Finding A Home In Tinker Tank

by | Mar 30, 2016

When the Padfield family moved to Seattle from upstate New York last year, they left behind almost all of their friends and family. “Coming here, starting all over again was hard,” says Dawn, mother of Lila, Liam and Coral.  Fortunately, they discovered the Science Center.  “This was the highlight,” she says, “a really fun safe place to come all the time and enjoy ourselves together.” The kids are entranced by the Tropical Butterfly House and the hands-on puzzles in Ackerley Family Exhibit Gallery.  Most of all, they love Tinker Tank.

On Fridays—field trip day for their homeschooled family—Lila, Liam and Coral bounce into Tinker Tank to tackle the weekly project using simple supplies such as cardboard and tape. Once, they wowed everyone with a record-breaking “air boat” that carried 42 paper clips for two feet.  They also immersed themselves in a “Hootitat” challenge, using index cards and 10 stickers to create personalized habitats for three whimsical owls with special needs. Lila and Liam built a tall tower for Big Al Owl who likes to be high up in the air. Coral made a playground for shy Tiny Tina Owl—complete with a slide, teepee and gate to protect her from predators.

“The staff and volunteers encourage them to persevere through problems,” Padfield says. “They ask open-ended questions: What if we try this? instead of telling them an answer.”

At home, with their dad, an engineer, the Padfield kids keep tinkering and refining. And as they explore their new city, they point to shapes in Seattle architecture that mimic what they’ve created with Tinker Tank index cards, chatting about which would be structurally strongest, come an earthquake.

Tinker Tank is helping them make connections, Padfield says. “They’re looking at the world with more curiosity.”

Last year in our Tinker Tank maker space, 20,000 guests experimented with wind tables, gravity walls, cardboard amusement parks, Keva blocks, electric circuits and more. The staffed, hands-on activities are designed to cultivate creative problem-solving skills through the practice of the design-test-redesign engineering process.