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The other day I visited Leonardo’s Basement, an educational organization in Minneapolis, Minn., for kids ages 6-16 (about 40 percent girls), with an emphasis on hands-on learning with the help of scientific, artistic, creative, and tool-based classes. Situated in an actual basement, with a hip coffee shop above it, the space offers lots of cool and inspiring opportunities for learning maker skills. Examples of classes include building basic mechanisms, building a real go-kart, Lego stop motion movies, steampunk, and learning to sew.

I really like their safety policy, geared to get tools into the hands of kids rather than bogging them down with instruction. For instance, rather than teaching kids how to saw, the instructor gives the saw to the kid and lets him or her learn by doing. Goggles are only used when operating power tools or when cutting something that could theoretically pop back into the kid’s face.

Another of their policies involves letting kids simply create their project without adult control. Apparently some parents have been asked to leave for trying to micromanage their kid’s project during the open workshop hours. Engineers, in particular, are bad about letting their kids make a glorious mess of a project!

Leonardo’s Basement has been in operation since 1998.

John Baichtal

My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal nerdage.net


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