“It’s a very empowering thing,” says Jeremy Boyle, “handing screwdrivers to five-year-olds and telling them they’re permitted to take these toys apart.”
Jeremy, Assistant Professor of Art at Clarion University and resident artist at Carnegie Mellon University’s Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment (CREATE) Lab, is discussing a lesson plan of the Children’s Innovation Project. The program, created by Jeremy and Melissa Butler in October 2011, works to fulfill CREATE Lab’s mission, setting kindergarteners on the pathway toward technological fluency. Children in grades K-5 participate in a learning progression centered in learning the fundamentals of simple circuits and making connections to the technologies that surround them.
“They look at the toys in an entirely different way” after learning about electronics, says Jeremy. “They say things like, ‘I know there’s a speaker inside because I hear a sound.’” They’re handed screwdrivers to open the toys, verify their predictions and make new discoveries.
Jeremy, whose artwork incorporates technology, believes “creative inquiry is the pathway to the development of critical inquiry” and this shift in understanding of toys is significant for the children. “They realize that they have the ability to transform their toys into newly imagined things.”