At the end of February, core team member Nico Staple traveled to San Francisco. A highlight of the week was a “field trip” to the Exploratorium, a hands-on museum of science, art, and human perception. A focus of the visit was the museum’s Tinkering Studio, best described by the sign at its entrance:


Think with Your Hands

Making things and developing ideas by hand helps us construct understanding. Slow down, settle in, and make something personally meaningful—from playful contraptions to surprising connections between mechanical systems and natural phenomena.

Inside are custom-made tables, space dividers constructed of poster tubes, stop-action animation stations, an enormous ball maze built with only toothpicks and glue, a dedicated workshop, and much more. One of the coolest items in the Tinkering Studio is a vending machine that dispenses an assortment of crafting supplies in quantities suitable for the everyday tinkerer. As the studio says in a blog post on the machine, “Tinkering is all about using what you have around and messing about with everyday materials, but for some projects, you need a special little bit of something that is hard to find.”

Nico and team were fortunate to get a special tour of the museum by Mike Petrich, Director of the Making Collaborative. Mike explained the philosophy of the Tinkering Studio and its role in encouraging visitors to slow down and transition from the chaos and the highly stimulating main exhibit floor to engage with ideas and materials personally and in a tactile way. This sentiment is echoed in this passage from the studio’s website:

The Tinkering Studio is based on a constructivist theory of learning which asserts that knowledge is not simply transmitted from teacher to learner, but actively constructed by the mind of the learner. Later, constructionism suggested that learners are more likely to develop new insights and understandings while actively engaged in making an external artifact.

This philosophy tracks well with the studio model we use in Ethics Lab classes, where students move fluidly back and forth between raw content assimilation and creating a tangible thing that is valuable in the real world.

The lab team drew great inspiration from the Exploratorium and is eager to continue tinkering back on campus!

Explore the Mural

The lab hosted a pair of key events for this year’s Fall Leadership Weekend: the Kennedy Institute of Ethics’ Regent Committee meeting and a cocktail party for all Regents prior to the Conversations in Bioethics reprise. This was a great opportunity to show off the renovated space and we commissioned a mural depicting The Story of Ethics Lab through an illustrated timeline.

If you missed the “live” mural, you can pan and zoom through the whole thing to see the different sections (including Jack the bulldog!) by clicking the “explore the mural” button below or download the high resolution image for offline viewing. A special thanks to Michelle Chen, the fabulous artist who created the mural.

Explore the Mural

Structural space renovations are complete in 201b and “project organization” has commenced. The lab has acquired 5 shiny wire shelves that house no less than 4 printers, 2,000 sheets of paper, 3 dozen cans of spray paint (graffiti on the walls? yes, I think so) and no less than 30 art bins filled with professional grade materials for everything from book making to robotics.

The price one might ask? One design fellow’s annual allotment of organizational brain power — with just a few more days and the leadership of Nico Staple, the lab will soon be in a state of organization that has never before been witnessed just in time for Fall Leadership Weekend events.

Next up: a protocol to help students and design faculty keep the lab in pristine condition… who are we kidding — messes are good. However, it is safe to say the breaks between design sprints and the lab’s extraordinary academic functions will see less casual disorganization going forward and a more punctuated state of production and rest.

Bye-bye, walls!

We’re making progress! We can’t wait to see the space once it’s finished, but for now, we’ll just enjoy the stripped down version.

Our growing EthicsLab library includes sections on higher education, bioethics, design, ethnography, creative pedagogy, creative anarchy…

We have officially arrived!

Check out this beautiful plaque marking our space on the second floor of spectacular Healy Hall!

Our sincerest thanks to the Hugins for their generous gift.

You know you’re meeting with the EthicsLab team if the walls are covered in Post-It Notes and the tables are lined with rolls of paper!

The transformation…

…from a room of filing cabinets to a fully-functional (and still evolving!) studio space.