“I think what gets lost is kids having that freedom and learning to figure things out on their own,” says Whitney Mason. In September, she and Renee Bushman opened The Twine Lab to help fill that need. Appropriately, it’s in the Lincoln Center, a former Colorado Springs School District 11 elementary school.
“We’re trying to get them to be really independent thinkers and problem solvers,” says Mason. “We’re not teaching them, we’re collaborating with them.”
Mason has been teaching for 14 years, mostly in special education, currently working half-time at Broadmoor Elementary. Bushman, formerly Mason’s teaching mentee, has been teaching for four years and currently works at Buena Vista Elementary. Rather than direct the kids at The Twine Lab, Mason and Bushman ask questions to guide and refocus, Socrates-style.
The idea for The Twine Lab comes from the Tinkering School in San Francisco. Both the Tinkering School and The Twine Lab function somewhat like a maker space. Kids ages 3 to 14 learn how to turn a vision into a plan of action, as well as how to use the tools they’ll need to make it happen. Mostly, that happens through guided activities and classes, but Mason says they’re always willing to work with a child who brings in a plan and a tool list.
“When pricing it, we were looking at all the programs already existing in Colorado Springs,” says Mason. They’re brainstorming ways to make the program accessible for low-income families.
“I worked in St. Paul Public Schools for nine years before I moved here, [mostly] with low-income families,” says Mason. “I always feel like when I create something, I want it to be accessible to everybody.”