IF YOU GO
What: "Tinkertoys: Build Your Imagination."
When: Saturday through Sept. 9. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sundays (opening at 11 a.m. this Sunday).
Where: Creative Discovery Museum, 321 Chestnut St.
Admission: $11.95 adults and children ages 2-12.
A group of rods and spools by themselves are not much of a toy, but together they create the nearly century-old Tinkertoys.
The classic construction set, created in 1914, provides the backdrop for the new temporary educational exhibit at the Creative Discovery Museum, "Tinkertoys: Build Your Imagination," which opens Saturday and continues through Sept. 9.
"So much of play today is driven by video games, by predictable play," said Linda LeVan, director of external affairs for the museum. "[Tinkertoys] help spark the idea of innovation, creativity, trial and error. Kids get excited about building their own structures, about trying things themselves."
In the exhibit itself, giant Tinkertoy building pieces create the framework for additional activities within.
Inside are a welcome gallery and nine activity stations that invite children and families to explore topics such as renewable energy and clean water technology, to experiment with ideas and create their own inventions, and to work as collaborators in a hands-on environment.
Not only does the exhibit offer play with the timeless toys, according to LeVan, but it promotes the idea behind them, the things that go into a design and the collaboration needed for construction.
In Invent, one of the nine stations, the concept of biomimicry, or nature-inspired design, is explained by the creation of Velcro, which was invented by a Swiss engineer who saw how the burrs of a burdock kept sticking to his clothes.
Elsewhere, they can learn how simple mechanisms work by selecting and positioning words to build silly but thought-provoking sentences that serve as a springboard for innovation; fill a life-size human form with Tinkertoy spools and reveal the elements of a healthy lifestyle; and begin a challenging scavenger hunt inside a walk-in replica of a Tinkertoy can.
LeVan said she appreciates the way the exhibit, which is geared to ages 3-12, combines a toy most Americans know with new concepts.
"I grew up with Tinkertoys," she said. "To bring them back and share them with my own kids will be really fun. It's something all ages will enjoy."
In encouraging parents to work with their children or children to work with other children, the exhibit also fits into the museum's goal of "families doing things together," LeVan said.
The Tinkertoys exhibit was developed by the Betty Brinn Children's Museum in Milwaukee.
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...