Podcast Interview with Master Tinkerer and School Founder, Gever Tulley

September 30, 2022

A joyful discussion about designing a school to follow a learner’s native curiosity with master tinkerer Gever Tulley — co-founder of Brightworks School (San Francisco, CA, US), co-founder of Tinkering School, author of “50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do)”, toymaker, and TED big-stage speaker — for our latest Season 1 episode of the “Wander & Wonder: Exploring the Future of Learning” podcast.

A couple of breadcrumb trail ideas Gever shared:

– his school purposefully “looks for evidence of magic” and was launched to defend the idea that “everything is interesting”

– letting elementary, middle, and high school kids co-build a 2-3 story structure called “Kid City” in an empty warehouse helped the school’s vision and pedagogy become real to everyone in year one

– why would you invite a kid to “be a robot on Mars” as a strategic response to Covid and how do you scale that invitation to kids around the world?

– exploring questions and ideas as a ‘keyhole’ that offers a speck of light from a distance, but as you draw closer it opens up details and more questions; as you pass thru it, you enter a new world entirely

– the logic behind inviting all of his PreK-12th students to spend a half-year studying “monsters” followed by a half-year studying “machines”; and why a similar half-year commitment to studying “salt” led to his students asking for more time to do so.

– advice to teachers: you design the perfect lesson by “stopping it in the heat of the moment” so that students return to it full of energy the next day

– build in “improvisational collaboration” across a school -> “create serendipitous overlaps where things emerge”

– big idea: “The way a child sees a city starts from their bedroom out.”

– why an accessible power tool wall (drills, drivers, saws, etc) implicitly says to a young person: “We trust you” and “Use what you need to explore your idea”

– the importance of prototyping spaces whether by building cardboard shoji screens and removing doors from classrooms, including providing children spaces they own outright


– crafting a manifesto that shifts education from ‘testing kids’ to ‘testing schools’ by virtue of evaluating the presence of joy and delight; how central is collaboration across the school; the amount of autonomy that students have to explore their own ideas; and how much a child’s creative capacity is invested in.


Release Date: We’ll release Dan’s episode in early November.

All 13 episodes will be released over the month of November with short video snippets released daily M-TH and full episodes/transcripts each Friday.


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