Tinkerfest all about teaching science while having fun

Teaching science and problem solving was the goal but combining that with having fun was the result as the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas hosted Tinkerfest Saturday afternoon.

“This is actually a crafts fest, where the kids can get involved in a number of different projects involving theater props,” said Tim Rhoades, the educational coordinator at the center.

Those projects included mask making, building wigs and facial hair, and creating stacks of paper plates and cups tied together to keep them from falling.

“There’s a scene in an upcoming production where one of the characters is carrying a stack of plates and it looks like they’re going to drop the stack but they’re actually tied together with bungee cord so they don’t actually fall on the floor,” Rhoades said.

Jordan Hall and Briana Thompson worked the table where young people created their own props, using paper plates, cups and string.

“We want to see how big and crazy they can make the stacks,” Thompson said as she watched Dustin McGehee and others put their projects together.

“It’s all about trial and error,” Hall said. “You try something and if it doesn’t work, you do it again a different way.”

McGehee, 12, who lives in Texas and was visiting in Pine Bluff Saturday, started over after putting together a stack of plates and cups he said “weren’t stable.”

“I’m going to try and make a better one that works this time,” he said.

Asked if he knew that he was actually learning about science, all McGehee would say was he “was having fun.”

Rhoades, who has a theater background, said saw potential for sharing information.

“We might steal some of the ideas that kids come up with here for the upcoming production,” Rhoades said.

That production will be The Hobbit, which is scheduled for April 25—28 at the center.

Another of the activities Saturday was mask making, what Rhoades and Rebecca Brantley called “fabric fusion.”

“You start with a mold and take a cheap piece of plastic like a table cloth you can buy for a dollar at the dollar store,” Brantley said. “You cut it up, wrap it around the mold, then take a heat gun or hair dryer or whatever you’ve got and heat the plastic.”

“It’s a cheap way for dress-up at home and it’s actually pretty cool,” Brantley said.

Some of the masks that were made Saturday are expected to be used in The Hobbit.

Participants were also shown how to take old clothes and turn them into other things, like props for the upcoming show.

“There’s a scene where some of the characters wear boots and we couldn’t afford to go out and buy a lot of boots,” Rhoades said. “We’re taking old plastic and cutting it up and making boot covers out of it.”

Other activities included making shadow puppets and designing dolls out of scrap pieces of clothing.

“It’s all about problem solving and being creative,” Rhoades said.