For the past year or so, outdoorsy parents in the New York area have been enjoying classes with themes like "Hunt the Wind," "Build a Secret Shelter" and "Un-recipe for Paint." Mud pies, buckets, tarps, and sticks are key learning tools. Class takes place rain or shine. Wish something like it were available in Austin? Welcome to Tinkergarten, starting up in Austin, Cedar Park, Leander and Driftwood/Dripping Springs this season!
Tinkergarten is a great fit for families who want their kids to experience rich creative play outside in the company of other like-minded families. Teachers (often parents themselves) develop their own Tinkergarten-approved curriculum and choose a natural area to host the class. Classes are mixed-age (many are "whole family" or ages 18 months-8), with themes and projects that are easily adapted to meet each child's interests and abilities.
With a curriculum influenced by Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, and Montessori, the courses are intended as a bridge between playgroup and scouting, with an emphasis on discovery, creativity, and problem-solving. "The power in what we're doing is helping parents to let go, and to help their children do the learning," says co-founder Brian Fitzgerald. We see this as perhaps the most valuable lesson of Tinkergarten -- in this context, parents learn to trust their children's ability to find inspiration, challenge, and joy on their own, in a natural setting.
Interested in learning more? Check out the Tinkergarten site and sign up for a class at Pease Park, Dick Nichols Park, Northwest District Park, Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park, Bee Caves Central Park, Brushy Creek Lake Park (Cedar Park), Devine Lake Park (Leander) or Charro Ranch Park (Driftwood/Dripping Springs). Browse their free library of activities, and if it sounds like just what you've been looking for, consider applying to be a Tinkergarten teacher yourself!