Playful Engineers Online Learning

Play-Based, Hands-on, & STEAM-Powered! Virtual makerspace workshops for all ages and abilities are led by teaching artist Jay Mankita.

Hands-on workshops and stand-alone presentations, series, residencies, and large events are available. Gather the necessary materials…

or order our classroom kits.

Now booking four Maker Space Build-Along Workshops:

1) Chain Reactions from Toys & Household Materials
2) Stick-eometry: Geometry From Sticks

3) Mechanical Linkages from Craft Sticks
4) Mechanical Automata from Paper Cups & Paper Clips

Playful Engineers teaching artist Jay Mankita demonstrating a chain reaction.

Play-based learning is at the heart of Playful Engineers, that’s why it’s in our name! And why we encourage (though we don’t require) teachers to follow our 3 step sequence, making the most of the materials, and of what we have to offer as teaching artists, before, during, and after our live-streamed session/s. We’ve developed this sequence according to our experience in play-based learning, and informed by the principles of Universal Design for Learning, and Contructionism.

Creativity and ingenuity are brought to light in a fun and engaging way for all students no matter their ability or materials on hand. Jay was fabulous encouraging even the most reluctant students to begin and try. – Jessie Cardarelli, 5th grade Teacher, Burkland E.S.

“I want to thank you again for all of your help and patience. One of the last meetings we had was an all staff reflection on content area work. We, the science teachers, used the video from one of our students (his dog rang a bell that triggered a marble that travelled down to release a dog treat) as the highlight of our year and the end of our presentation. We marveled as this shy young man found his voice through engineering, design, and construction. A big assist to you for making that happen.” Jack Czajkowski, Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School

“That was SO MUCH fun! The kids very obviously loved it, as did I!” Megan Dehmelt, Burlington County Library

Let’s arrange an online workshop, presentation, series, or residency. Funding may be available in your area – contact us!

Mechanical Linkages from Craft Sticks!

Mechanical linkages are everywhere – in machines of course, but also in art, architecture, and nature – even in our own bodies. Becoming more familiar with them strengthens our foundational understanding of mechanical processes specifically, and engineering and design in general. 

Students make scissor, reverse motion, and parallel linkages from ordinary materials, building the structures for their own artful mechanisms that send messages, tell stories, or accomplish tasks. As they build their structures according to instructions and templates, they are also beginning to conceive and create their own designs to overlay those structures. That process in turn may lead to modifications of the structures. Engineering informs design, and vice versa.

Crank-Driven Mechanical Automata!

Students make their own crankshaft-driven automata designs – artful mechanisms that can send a message, tell a story, or accomplish a task. For a single session, all you need to get started are paperclips, craft sticks, tape, cardboard, and markers.

Extraordinary maker activities from paperclips, cardboard, dowels, paper cups, and other ordinary stuff.

Maker Space Build-Along: Chain Reactions – from Ordinary Stuff!

A Rube Goldberg-inspired romp into the world of building complicated chain reactions to accomplish simple tasks, from our own ordinary stuff.

Kids make their own working models of kinetic machine parts using typically available household objects, exploring force and motion, scale, and cause and effect.

They gather their own toys and household materials for constructing chain reactions at their own pace.

Simple Machines, Cause & Effect, Force & Motion, and Scale, are some of the relevant engineering concepts we explore while building and playing.

Content is easily bundled with your curriculum, but this work is really all about play.

And this type of play reinforces: critical thinking, problem solving, growth mindset, and teamwork!

More quotes from Jay Mankita’s Maker Space Build-Along programs:

“Your program was so much fun, and I had a great time seeing all of your creations- they are truly inspiring!” – Katrina Ireland, Northborough Public Library

I would absolutely recommend this program to others. Jay was engaging, knowledgeable, and did a wonderful job encouraging the students while also giving very helpful feedback and suggestions. He was also extremely patient and supportive when speaking with the children, while still giving them helpful feedback on what to improve. – Jillian Bennet, Children’s Librarian, Harvard Public Library

I was so pleased with every aspect of this presentation. I particularly enjoyed that Jay was so effective at teaching remotely. He had put the time into rigging up different cameras to show the kids views from every angle. He was adept at utilizing the Zoom features to bring a student up to “center stage” and make them the focus of the group when they wanted to show their work. He understood that kids can listen and build at the same time…which is developmentally appropriate for my 4th graders….and particularly helpful for those little tinkerers who always need to have something in their hands. – Keely Lombardi, 4th grade, Burkland E.S.

Maker Space Build-Along: Stick-eometry – Geometry from Sticks!

With 5 pencils, 3 rubber bands, and some tape, kids make geometric figures to form triangles, pentagons, pentagrams, and trapezoids, discovering geometric principles through hands-on play.a

Having fun measuring with these manipulatives, we also explore and discuss related concepts of projective geometry, perspective drawing, map-making, even shadow puppetry!

Contact us for a quick reply!

Or just call 413-627-3145.