Stick & Tube
I haven't come up with a better name for this, but this is literally what it is. It began with a box of wooden dowels that were headed for the burn pile. I ordered some vinyl tubing that would fit on the wood dowels, cut them to a consistent length, then dumped all of the parts on the beach and let the kids create what they wanted to create. Additionally, I used some scrap tyvek that was also headed for the garbage pin, tied a string to it, and encouraged people to write letters or messages on the tyvek ribbon and then tie them on to the structure. There were no instructions, no guidelines, no rules. Just build, create, destroy, create, crash, fail etc....
The idea was that there was the sticks and there were connectors (vinyl tubing) and you could build shapes or structures. Nothing was planned, it was all about seeing how the thing shifted and changed through out the day. For the artistic folks, there was markers and tyvek and they could write a word or phrase, or color the tyvek, then attach it somewhere on the structure.
As the day went on, there were a few things that stood out.
1. The number one used word (and used on almost every piece of tyvek that had writing on it) was 'Love'
2. Kids fully understood the creative play process. When they asked 'what are we building here' I would respond "I don't know, what do you want to build?"
3. Parents were evenly split between stepping back and letting their kid create (or encouraging them and building with them) or confused. The confused parents kept asking for a plan, or some guidance on what to build. I refused to tell the kids what to do. If they wanted to destroy something ... go at it. If they wanted to shove the sticks in the ground instead of connecting them... awesome. If they wanted to build a tower their own way... awesome. If they wanted to call their stick a gun and build a fort with guns... go for it kid.
4. Lot's of adults 'Didn't get it'. "Why do you have this?" "So... they are just building something?" etc.... Perhaps I could have better signage that explained to the adults that this is a free form creative play space. But I kept it simple, I kept the language the signs simple, because I didn't want it to be complicated with rules or ideas.
Something interesting really stands out for me with point #3 and #4, something that I have read a lot about in various books on creative thinking and education, and that I know the Maker Community has actively been countering. That is the fact that somewhere along the way, we have lost our ability and desire to be creative and to 'play'. We start weighing risks in a different fashion, and it is debilitating. Losing the respect for free form play that has no real end goal or purpose other than to just do. Yes, there is a the risk of whatever it is we are creating (in this case a stick tower or stick maze) will fail. But, that isn't the end goal for something like this. In fact... there really isn't an end goal other than to open up and play. We really need to play more.
We need to ask each other how we can play more, and how we can help others play. We need to ask why we are so afraid of this free form creativity, why we are afraid of failure, and why we aren't playing and failing more. Ask.... ask ourselves, and ask each other.