Tinkering Station

Innovative Designer


There is nothing more fun than tinkering and taking apart old and broken equipment and toys and creating something from them. Give a student an old phone or toy and have them take it apart. They can try to put it together again or create something new from the pieces. The students will see what these things look like inside and better understand how the equipment and toys work. 

Students will:

  • Be able to take apart broken pieces of equipment and toys. 
  • Be able to repurpose old and broken equipment. 
  • Understand better how the equipment is made and put together. 
  • Be able to make something new from repurposed materials. 

Vocabulary Words:

  1. Repurpose: To repurpose is to take something a reuse or give it another purpose. 

  2. Tinker: To tinker is to make some small changes to it, in an attempt to improve it. 

To prepare for this lesson:

  • The teacher will gather up old equipment and toys from the building, home or from parents. 
  • Purchase or get donations of small tools to take apart the equipment. 
  • Safety goggles might be a good idea depending on the equipment and toys the students are taking apart. Wearing the goggles reminds them how to practice safety when using tools. 
  • Find a corner of the classroom to set up the tinkering station. 
  • Gather together glue, tape, string, pieces of wood or blocks, markers, beads, marbles, old cds, and other materials that the students can use to decorate whatever they decide to create. 
  • Watch this Ted Talk on tinkering
    • Make sure that any old equipment that is collected does not have any sharp parts that can hurt a student. There should also not be any hazardous chemicals in the equipment. 

See the Accommodations Page and Charts on the 21things4students website in the Teacher Resources. 

Directions for this activity:

  1. The teacher will want to show the students how to use any tools that are in the tinkering station. 
  2. The teacher will talk about safety using the tools and model the safety goggles. 
  3. The teacher will explain that the students can take apart anything in the tinkering station. 
  4. The teacher will encourage the students to repurpose the materials and come up with something new. 
  5. The tinkering station can be an area where students who get to school early can tinker in until school officially starts. The station can be used for students who have completed work early, The station can also be used for STEAM activities. 
  6. Allow the students to have free reign and show their creativity!

Different options for assessing the students:

  • Observations
  • Check for understanding
  • If using the tinkering station for a STEAM activity, create a short rubric to help measure what the students are expected to learn in the activity. 

MITECS: Michigan adopted the "ISTE Standards for Students" called MITECS (Michigan Integrated Technology Competencies for Students) in 2018.

Innovative Designer
4a. Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
4c. Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.

Bring in old equipment and toys for the students. 


The students can write a short story about the new thing they have created. 

Many uique pieces of art can be created with repurposed materials. 

Students are learning about how technology works as they take apart the equipment and toys. 

This task card was created by Melissa White, 21Things Project Manager, REMC Association of Michigan, April 2018. Updated November 2023.