Monday, November 21, 2016

If it’s broke…keep on breaking…

In last week’s post, I recommended a book I thought would be a great fit in an elementary, STEM classroom.  This week I have another book that would also work well in a STEM or STEAM classroom but would work across many grade levels.

Things Come Apart by Todd McLellan falls into the coffee table book category because the photographs are so provocative and will appeal to a wide range of ages.  The premise of the book is looking at all the parts of everyday appliances, mechanical devices and constructed objects. For example, let’s say you’re keen to know about the inner workings of a mechanical pencil or a 1928 mantel clock or a 1964 Smith-Corona typewriter or a 1912 upright piano or a 2002 iPod 2 or a 2012 two-seater light aircraft (you get the idea, a range of things over several decades) or what it’s made of, then this book is for you.

All of these devices (plus 44 others) are entirely disassembled by the author. Every single piece, from the smallest screw to the largest casings are included and arranged in very attractive layouts (my favourite is the 1960s accordion) on one page and with a corresponding page showing all the parts falling through the air.  The piano and airplane are the exceptions and have pull out spreads to show us the entirety of their discombobulated glory.

So what’s the value of this?

In the field of education, you may have become aware of the Maker Movement. It’s all about getting children back to using their hands to create things both low and higher tech. (Think origami paper cranes to clothes that are programmed to light-up.) But if you think about creating something or exploring an idea then it’s sometimes really useful to think what the opposite of this thing, idea or process is (in this case, deconstructing) as a way to develop a different understanding of the object, idea or process.

(If you’re keen to read more about the Maker Movement go to Paula Hollohan’s blog, Doucette Ed Tech to see additional resources and information.)

Included are five essays by experts in various fields who explore the idea of taking things a part or putting them together or how repairing, reusing or repurposing objects touch on sustainability issues. These essays are more for an adult level or senior high level student.

So, go grab those old toasters, computer printers and TVs that are sitting idly in your basement or garage. Let a new journey begin with loosening a screw or two. What are you waiting for?


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