Tinkering School launching year round Brightworks School in San Francisco


The Brightworks Arc – Exploration, Expression, Exposition

Everything is interesting. We can build anything.

I wrote here about Tinkering School Summer Camp in August, 2010. More than a few people who read it said to me “I’d like to go to Tinkering Camp year round.” And now they (or at least their kids) can….Tinkering School founder Gever Tulley has teamed up with A Curious Summer director Bryan Welch to launch Brightworks – with the ambitious and full-of-promise tagline “an extraordinary school” – in San Francisco. The San Francisco school joins a growing network of satellite Tinkering Schools in Austin, Chicago and soon to be, Buffalo–see the Buffalo Tinkering FB page here. Brightworks is the first year round school in the Tinkering network.


Anticipated to launch in September, 2011, they have designed the K-12 curriculum around a series of arcs, lasting from 2 weeks to 2 months.

Each arc takes as its premise a central theme, to be explored from multiple perspectives. Students interact with this theme in three different phases: exploration,expression, and exposition

The founders have written a very clear declaration that this model is rooted in a designerly approach to learning, what Bryan Welch calls curatorial learning on A Curious Summer’s website. 

Brightworks does away with tests, grades and homework, instead supporting each student as they create a rich and detailed portfolio of their work. 


I appreciate the choice of words on the Chicago site (emphasis is mine):

  • Tinkering School is a place where children are given abstract open-ended building projects and problems. 
  • Trained to use the tools required for success, they have the freedom to fail and the time to persevere.
  • A failure-positive atmosphere allows children to play in the face of adversity.
  • The use of real tools to tackle real problems creates a unique atmosphere of trust and responsibility.
  • Children work at their own pace with the adults tilting projects and timelines toward completion.


Expect to be reading more about Brightworks and the evolving Tinkering School Summer Camp network. I’ll be making it an ongoing focus.  

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