Posted by: COSI | May 18, 2010

Dramatic Hands On

William Kamkwamba of Malawi

William Kamkwamba of Malawi

I’ve been a fan of Mitch Albom since my wife, Dottie, introduced me to Albom’s compelling best seller, Tuesdays With Morrie.  So when I saw he’d written an article on the Backpage section of Parade magazine, I took note.

Ironically Albom was writing about a young African, William Kambkwamba, who I’d had the opportunity to meet.  Kambkwamba’s story is inspirational in how he took on the task, with no training and plans, to build an electricity producing windmill out of scraps and “garbage” he sought out.  And he succeeded.

Albom’s point, building from the young African’s storied success which led to bigger and better installations to help his drought-plagued village, was the joy of working and “thinking” with your hands.  It resonated with me as Albom rued the loss of hands-on activities in our society—replaced by computers, electronics, and TV.

We’ve talked at length at COSI and among science center professionals about our role in an increasingly electronic-driven society where social media, gaming, and now 3D TV are all the rage.  Do we “go with the flow” or do we provide a bastion where real engagement and real hands-on can still be found.

I’ve been voting more and more for the latter, while still encouraging our team to utilize social media, 3D movies, and even my blogs as a way to enhance our engagement—not supplant hands-on engagement and “real” interactions.

Whether it is our hands-on exhibits, workshops, or family activities (such as our experiment with cow eyes dissection), we believe there is still great value in the challenge and learning from working with your hands.  Albom—I’m with you.  You can read his full article at

What are your thoughts on this?


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