This last weekend we had a workshop full of superlatives. Our largest group of kids, our most complex one-day workshop project to date, our first junior collaborator of the year...and, the wettest outdoor build of the season. The early May rain was a welcome surprise for us Californians, and it kept us thinking on our feet all day. The kids took it like champs, staying focused and working diligently all day.
This week, we had a big group of kids all age 10 and over. We were also joined by two new members of the Project Ember Team. Christopher comes to us with many beautiful building projects under his belt and lots of experience working with kids. He will join us all summer as a Staff Collaborator. We also welcomed Jane, our first official Junior Collaborator who blew us away with her wealth of tool knowledge and natural leadership abilities. We were also glad to see our old friend Hannah who we hope will make many guest appearances this summer.
We moved through our hellos, community expectations and safety agreements, and then huddled under the canopies to go over our two main tools of the day: the miter saw (also known as the chop saw) and the drills.
Christopher and Josh broke off to cover drill safety and technique while the ladies headed up chop saw training. The chop saw can be an intimidating tool for first time users, but everyone in the group stepped up to make their first cuts after a thorough training, and many couldn't wait to jump in for a second shot. Our whole team was impressed by how quickly this group of kids absorbed the lessons and the excellent (and safe) technique they demonstrated for the rest of the day.
Once the groundwork for the day had been laid, we announced the project: Art Carts! Our teams took on the challenge of designing a rolling vehicle that could paint three different 4’x 15’ canvases (one on the ground, one upright, and one overhead). Their one design constraint was that the brushes needed to be attached to the carts so that they did not fall to the ground when the operator let go. We broke into three teams and got to work designing.
Our ideas were ambitious and we had to move fast. Making changes to the plan on the fly, different teams took different approaches. Hannah's team favored thinking and planning up front, which allowed them to stick to their plan and collectively agree on any major changes. On Josh's team, different kids each took charge of different parts. While some worked on the problem of the brushes, others built the cart itself. Adding the brushes to the cart would be the final challenge. And on Christopher's team there was a bit more improvisation and many more last second changes as excitement overcame planning.
The project had proved a complex one for a short day building. When families started showing up for the final demonstration, the kids were still hard at work with finishing touches. It felt like we had three Nascar pit crews on the scene, as each team flipped over their carts to add wheels before driving them over to the starting line. Carson added a little design flair to the day with a custom gong mallet to signal the beginning of each team's round. Congrats to all the kids for their inspired designs and hard work making the deadline. And our thanks to The Berkeley School for hosting us on its beautiful campus!