I model my own exploration and experimentation with the students. Mess-ups are encouraged. Ideas are explored.
I’m always sure to vocalize my curious thoughts as I analyze how a tool is cutting or how a material is reacting. I encourage students to share their observations with me and to ask questions I do not know the answer to. I have no shame in saying that I don’t know. They observe that there is always the option to be a learner in something and to explore and experiment to find the answers we need to be successful.
For example, wood-turning is something I have limited experience in, but student interest in it seems to come up every year, which I encourage and accommodate. I learn as students learn.
Brad is a student I taught a few years ago who learns through play. He is a student with learning disabilities, who operates well below his grade level with compromised motor skills. He has been given little opportunity to develop a level of independence required for exploration and experimentation. In my class, he was able to develop enough CAD and computer skills to design and 3D print an object almost daily. Every object was an abstract representation of his thought, which he was able to share with his other teachers and friends with pride.
Outside of safety, procedure is not a norm in our class. As the saying goes, “there is more than one way to skin a cat” and when students ask about the best way to do something, I am always sure to give them more than one option so they must explore and decide for themselves.