Renee Bushman, co-founder of The Twine Lab works with students 3 to 5 years old in the Mini-Makers class, which meets every Friday morning.
Renee Bushman, co-founder of The Twine Lab works with students 3 to 5 years old in the Mini-Makers class, which meets every Friday morning.

The Twine Lab

Established: 2017

Employees: 2

Location: The Lincoln Center, 2727 N. Cascade Ave., Suite 100

Contact: thetwinelab.com

At first glance, Renee Bushman and Whitney Mason’s new school may seem like a daycare, but instead of playing with toys, students at The Twine Lab  learn how to create and build whatever they want using tools such as hammers, handsaws and hot glue guns.

The Twine Lab opened Oct. 6 in the Lincoln Center, a retail space in a former elementary school. It’s a tinkering school that offers workshops, after-school programs on Tuesdays and Thursdays for students ages 6 to 14, and a Friday morning Mini-Makers session for kids 3 to 5 years old.

Tinkering schools are similar to makerspaces — teaching students creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking, according to Mason and Bushman.

“We tell the students, ‘You are more capable than you believe you are. With the right materials and education, you guys are able to do quite a bit more than you think you can,’” she said.

Mason and Bushman said while kids are often told they’re too young to learn how to create and build, they are more than capable of learning and working independently.

“You’re exploring, you’re being curious, you’re asking questions — you’re taking something apart and putting it back together to make it cooler, to make it yours,” Bushman said.

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One session allows students to recreate an object from a picture, and while it may turn out differently, the student has to use the provided tools to build it, said Mason.

When Mason moved to Colorado Springs from Minneapolis in 2011, she and Bushman met while teaching at the same school. They became friends and both had kids in preschool, so they would have each other’s kids over to do building and creating activities.

The Twine Lab opened after the two Colorado Springs teachers had a successful trial run in September, with about 50 students. The founders said they expect to see the same number of registered students monthly. The two teachers were also following trends across the country, and wondered why they had never heard of a tinkering school in Colorado Springs.

After the success of the September trial, Bushman and Mason decided to open their doors for business.

“The kids were so enthusiastic about these activities,” Mason said. “Parents would come to me and say, ‘That’s all [my kid] talks about.’

“I think there’s a need for it, and that’s how we decided, ‘Let’s do this, let’s give it a try.’”

The Twine Lab classroom, which Mason and Bushman rent from Goat Patch Brewing, is a space for students to work in an unlimited learning environment, Bushman said.

“We wanted the flexibility of multi-tiered abilities where we have everything from buttons and beads to a drill press and a chop saw,” she said. “Because we really knew this was something that kids, if given the abilities to work in a creative environment without boundaries — they’ll take it somewhere.”

What separates a tinkering school from planned lessons in everyday classrooms is that students are not given directions; they are only taught how to use the tools.

“It’s not, ‘Come build this bowl or box,’ it’s, ‘We’re going to teach you how to use a hammer and hot glue gun,’” Mason said. “We allow them to figure it out and we try and help them along the way … there are no instructions.”

So far, The Twine Lab revenue has allowed Mason and Bushman to pay the rent, but they have not made a profit.

Both said they try to keep the class sizes to six students per teacher, and will create waiting lists if needed.

Perseverance, they said, is what has allowed the two to open their after-school program.

“We’ve been really fortunate in asking people in the community to help us,” Mason said. “Because we’re not experts in running a business.

“Like a pyramid, if you build a strong foundation and add to it, it seems more manageable than doing everything at once.”