Hey guys. It's funny, someone just mentioned MacGyver, because that was, like, I loved it, and when I was seven, I taped a fork to a drill and I was like, "Hey, Mom, I'm going to Olive Garden." And -- and it worked really well there. And you know, it had a profound effect on me. It sounds silly, but I thought, okay, the way the world works can be changed, and it can be changed by me in these small ways. And my relationship to especially human-made objects which someone else said they work like this, well, I can say they work a different way, a little bit.
And so, about 20 years later, I didn't realize the full effect of this, but I went to Costa Rica and I stayed with these Guaymí natives there, and they could pull leaves off of trees and make shingles out of them, and they could make beds out of trees, and they could -- I watched this woman for three days. I was there. She was peeling this palm frond apart, these little threads off of it, and she'd roll the threads together and make little thicker threads, like strings, and she would weave the strings together, and as the materiality of this exact very bag formed before my eyes over those three days, the materiality of the way the world works, of reality, kind of started to unravel in my mind, because I realized that this bag and these clothes and the trampoline you have at home and the pencil sharpener, everything you have is made out of either a tree or a rock or something we dug out of the ground and did some process to, maybe a more complicated one, but still, everything was made that way.
And so I had to start studying, who is it that's making these decisions? Who's making these things? How did they make them? What stops us from making them? Because this is how reality is created. So I started right away. I was at MIT Media Lab, and I was studying the maker movement and makers and creativity. And I started in nature, because I saw these Guaymís doing it in nature, and there just seems to be less barriers.
So I went to Vermont to Not Back to School Camp, where there's unschoolers who are just kind of hanging out and willing to try anything. So I said, "Let's go into the woods near this stream and just put stuff together, you know, make something, I don't care, geometrical shapes, just grab some junk from around you. We won't bring anything with us. And, like, within minutes, this is very easy for adults and teens to do. Here's a triangle that was being formed underneath a flowing stream, and the shape of an oak leaf being made by other small oak leaves being put together. A leaf tied to a stick with a blade of grass. The materiality and fleshiness and meat of the mushroom being explored by how it can hold up different objects being stuck into it. And after about 45 minutes, you get really intricate projects like leaves sorted by hue, so you get a color fade and put in a circle like a wreath.
And I'm like, "Wow, that's really amazing. He doesn't know, but he can show you." So his hands know and his intuition knows, but sometimes what we know gets in the way of what could be, especially when it comes to the human-made, human-built world. We think we already know how something works, so we can't imagine how it could work. We know how it's supposed to work, so we can't suppose all the things that could be possible.
So kids don't have as hard of a time with this, and I saw in my own son, I gave him this book. I'm a good hippie dad, so I'm like, "Okay, you're going to learn to love the moon. I'm going to give you some building blocks and they're nonrectilinear cactus building blocks, so it's totally legit." But he doesn't really know what to do with these. I didn't show him. And so he's like, "Okay, I'll just mess around with this." This is no different than the sticks are to the teens in the forest. Just going to try to put them in shapes and push on them and stuff. And before long, he's kind of got this mechanism where you can almost launch and catapult objects around, and he enlists us in helping him.
And at this point, I'm starting to wonder, what kind of tools can we give people, especially adults, who know too much, so that they can see the world as malleable, so they see themselves as agents of change in their everyday lives. Because the most advanced scientists are really just kind of pushing the way the world itself works, pushing what matter can do, the most advanced artists are just pushing the medium, and any sufficiently complicated task, whether you're a cook or a carpenter or you're raising a child -- anything that's complicated -- comes up with problems that aren't solved in the middle of it, and you can't do a good job getting it done unless you can say, "Okay, well we're just going to have to refigure this. I don't care that pencils are supposed to be for writing. I'm going to use them a different way."
Part 1: Fill in the chart with:
Noun: Person, Place, Thing, or Idea
Verb: Shows Action
Adjective: Modifies a Noun
Article: Refers to a Noun (remember, only “THE”,” An”,” A” are articles)
Part of Speech
Noun, Verb, Article
What do I ‘think’ this word means?
Part 2: Stretch Question-Celebrate Writing
- According to paragraph 1, what do you think the author did with his fork taped to a drill?
- According to paragraph 2, what is ‘everything we have’ made out of?
- According to paragraph 4, what ‘intricate projects’ did the unschoolers make? What do you think the author means by the word ‘unschoolers’ ?
- According to paragraph 6, what did the author give to his son to ‘mess around with’ ? Why do you think he did this?
- According to paragraph 7, do you think that students in this school see the world as malleable? Malleable means changeable, so if you said yes or no, explain why you think this. Give me an example from your own life, if you can.
- The transferable vocabulary word is malleable . What does this word mean? Explain how the transferable vocabulary can be used in another subject? Use a SEMANTIC WORD MAP for this word.
Part 3: Work With a Partner
- Ask your partner how they answered question 5. Did you agree with them with your own answer?
- Do you agree with what your partner said in question 5? Use the outline on the board for this question and answer. This question is worth more than all the others. Take your time writing your answer.
- Working with your partner, what do you think is the main idea of this article? Cite a line from the text to support why you think this is the main idea.