When I was younger, I built things. Rolling out an industrial-sized roll of thick, white paper onto the cold floor of my parent’s glassed-in back porch, I drew grassy fields, rivers, mountains, and beaches that gave way to scribbled-on seas. But that was just the first step. Soon I took out slender wooden train tracks and blocks, building a set of towns and rail networks across my paper countryside.
In the summer, my neighbor and I made paper planes, folding for hours on my grandfathers weather-grayed table in the backyard. We also drew designs in notebooks: go carts, forts, a zip line to deliver notes between houses. My basement table was covered with LEGO models, K’Nex, Tinker-Tots–whatever sets I could find.
As we got older, we built robots, using a kit to construct and program them. Inspired by the show Robot Wars, we mostly had them fight, filming them on my parent’s VHS camera. But they had other uses, like taking care of my rabbit or trying to go up and down a particularly difficult hill.
These days, I don’t build much. Except with my nephews. But even they often prefer videogames, kickball, and playing with their instruments.
So, considering multimodal composition–through both digital architecture and tactile 3-D printing–brought back a spirit of play and tinkering. The pieces also brought some helpful elements to draw from for concrete teaching moments and larger teaching philosophies.