Hands-on mu­seum

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Time’s up! Glue guns down.” In­side the bustling workspace at Bethesda’s Kid Mu­seum on a re­cent Tues­day morn­ing, teacher Ram Mosher reins in a group of in­dus­tri­ous mid­dle-school­ers.

Vis­it­ing from Park­land Mag­net Mid­dle School in Rockville, Mary­land, the sev­enth-graders have come to work on a de­sign-and-build project start­ing with Pop­si­cle sticks and hot glue. The ex­er­cise is part of a pro­gramme to help pre­pare the stu­dents to en­ter the mu­seum’s spring 2019 In­vent the Fu­ture Chal­lenge. In the con­test, kids will show­case in­ven­tions de­signed to an­swer the ques­tion: What will you make to pro­tect the planet?

When it comes to kid in­ven­tors, “Us­ing your heart is just as im­por­tant as us­ing your brain,” Mosher says. The mu­seum’s hands-on pro­grammes teach skills such as col­lab­o­ra­tion, cre­ativ­ity and crit­i­cal think­ing, as well as such tech­ni­cal skills as de­sign­ing and build­ing and even us­ing power tools.

At Mosher’s call to put their glue guns down, stu­dents tidy their work sta­tions and gather around an elec­tric spool saw. They’ve de­signed their in­ven­tions for to­day’s ex­er­cise, and now it’s time to cut hard card­board to fin­ish their pro­to­types, or mod­els.

“You have to get your hands dirty,” Mosher says. “We be­lieve that that’s a much more ef­fec­tive way to learn skills . . . when you’re build­ing things and us­ing your brain.” A gar­dener in ad­di­tion to be­ing an ed­u­ca­tor, he re­calls one of his favourite kid in­ven­tions from last year’s con­test: a por­ta­ble rain gar­den de­signed to hook up to a home’s gutter sys­tem and save wa­ter.

On this day at the mu­seum, the in­ven­tions are equally cre­ative. Kyle Lopez and Ar­nav Patil de­signed a con­trap­tion they called a “Su­per Du­per Re­mote Bringer.” (Kyle en­tered the con­test last year with a pro­to­type of a sub­ma­rine that picked up trash un­der­wa­ter.)

Ad­di­son Murillo and Sa­muel Mar­quez used small pa­per cups, foam and hot glue to con­struct a model ce­real dis­penser. The idea, Ad­di­son says, is that the food would be dis­pensed in small batches and waste less than pour­ing from a box.

As Mosher demon­strates how to use the elec­tric saw, he re­minds them about safety and that, for cut­ting card­board, there’s no need to use the power tool at its fastest speed.

Kas­sarah Kin­sey and Da­mares Ortega use the loud, whirring saw to cut out pre­cisely mea­sured pieces they’ll need to build a model of a home ro­bot they de­signed to take out trash.

Rahwa Tes­fay and Kather­ine Cortez cut the pieces they’ll need to build out their mo­tion-sens­ing light switch. “So the lights go out when you leave the room,” Rahwa says, not­ing that us­ing the saw helped them get the sides of their card­board pieces per­fectly straight. None of the kids seem to have set­tled on what they’ll in­vent and sub­mit to the con­test, but they have learned a few skills that will help them ex­e­cute their ideas.

“We’re go­ing to be the grown-ups of the next gen­er­a­tion,” Ar­nav says, “so we need to be prac­tic­ing ev­ery­thing now, and we can ap­ply those skills later to help save the planet.”

— Wash­ing­ton Post

Ar­nav Patil, 12, pulls fab­ric through a loom for a project.

Direc­tor Lau­rel Har­ring­ton helps stu­dents start on projects.

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