People keep explaining: messing! around! doesn’t! teach! you! anything!

Often people approach me about the concept of klooien. Klooien is a Dutch word (my favorite word) and means messing around. The maker things I do are very much about klooien. We make Klooikoffers: boxes with a tool and some encouragement. But without a lesson or assignment. We’ve made our 50 tools poster: suggesting cool tools to encounter before the age of 12. But –again- without step by step instructions.

These people who approach me don’t agree with this approach. They stand before me with their case well prepares. They object. Or they worry. The know better. (And are often willing to help, so I can do better.)

This is how it’s done!

They’ll explain about tech (teach it in a structured manner, or pupils might learn it wrong) and about design (use step by step processes with kids, or nothing will happen!) and measurability (reflect on the work or you’ll never know the learning yield).

These people are so sure, they must be right. But are they?

With our messing around (which is not unstructured by the way) learning is not the goal. But we do trust there is some learning going on. What? We don’t know, because we don’t measure. And we like that. Trust is our treasure.

Are the experts loosing ground?

These knowledgeable people who object to the messing around seem to lack that trust. If you don’t structure everything, you’re headed for failure. They seem to regard making children as incapable, as a problem that can only be solved by hyperstructured guidance. But if these people are so sure, why are they so annoyed with me? Shouldn’t they be sitting somewhere laughing, and waiting for it all to blow over?

Sometimes I think these people are a little scared. They are afraid to let go and see what happens. They lock the door to different approaches because they’ve got something to loose: their own beliefs.


My makerfriend Per-Ivar Kloen (teacher, maker and Fablearn fellow (!)) put’s it nicely: the way we look at tech and making shows a different culture. We are not so much about formal training and education, but focus on discovery in a relaxed way. On fun, togetherness and trust. (This is not literally what he said but it shows the spirit.) With our messing around we don’t make ace welders. No, with our messing around we show young children that tech and making is very ordinary, fun, exciting and creative. And once they know that, the might one day want to become a welder. (Or consultant, or developer or baker, of whatever.)

His colleague and makerfriend Marten Hazelaar (teacher, maker and artist) likes to think about isolating skills versus offering a rich context: ‘I sometimes compare it to food. If you replace food by eating only nutrients (starch, proteins, vitamins and minerals) you know exactly what goes in, but you lack something… Food looses all fun and tastes like sh*t.’ Isolating the things you want to teach form their context and teach it separately is far less tasty than the crazy combination of everything that occurs while making in an intuitive way (messing around).


Well’ we don’t know really. And we like to keep it that way. Because only when you have doubts, are you open to new ideas. Keep it comin’, we are learning like crazy. We see the upside of structure, but we also see the downside. We continue our quest for the truth, knowing that this truth probably doesn’t exist. But we are getting closer! Maybe with our view on different maker strategies. Or maybe with our thinking on creating the right circumstances for creative making. Or in our other work.

Maybe. So, please keep asking questions. And please keep criticising me. What doesn’t kill me makes me understand better and better.

I’ll love you for it!