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A while ago we had a little domestic crisis involving our espresso machine. It had been steaming and dripping and making little explosive noises, so Helmut went out and bought an exploratory screwdriver. I was worried. “What about the warranty?” “No, let me just tinker with it and I’ll find the leak myself!” Famous last words.

When he’d deconstructed the appliance down to the last screw and put everything back together again, the machine wouldn’t steam, drip or make noises, let alone coffee. So what did he do? He didn’t throw it out (my first impulse), he found a repair shop down near the train station, and the machine is again as good as new.It all goes to show: Repairing those “black boxes” still makes sense. We need to understand what makes these things work. My friend Marie runs Linus, a social enterprise here in Munich that reintegrates the long-term unemployed into working life by employing them to recycle old electronic devices. That’s a hands-on, practical job that gives them a whole variety of valuable skills.

And mechanical projects are good for kids, too. Gever Tulley is the founder of The Tinkering School, a rather upmarket camp where kids from 7 to 17 learn how to make the things they want to using such otherwise “dangerous” devices as power tools. Our safety conscious world, Gever says, cuts children off from valuable learning experiences. “Kids are always going to figure out how to do the most dangerous thing they can,” he says, so allowing them the freedom to explore will make them stronger and smarter and actually safer. But he adds lines that make you wonder: “I don’t have children – I borrow my friends’ children – so take this advice with a grain of salt!” and “They’re young – they heal fast.”

In September, Gever talked about “Five dangerous things you should let your kids do” at the TED University (a preconference talk) in Monterey, California.

Learning the ropes – Lassen Sie Ihren Wortschatz wachsen

domestic – häuslich
crisis – Krise
to steam – dampfen
to drip – tropfen
exploratory – Prüf-
screwdriver – Schraubenzieher
warranty – Garantie
to tinker with sth. – herumbasteln, flicken, spielen
leak (n, v) – das Leck, auslaufen
appliance – Gerät, Haushaltsgerät
it wouldn’t – es wollte nicht
let alone – geschweige denn
repair shop – Werkstatt
it all goes to show – es beweist mal wieder
make sense – sinnvoll sein
to run (a company) – (eine Firma) führen
social enterprise – Sozialbetrieb
device – Apparat, Kleingerät, Einrichtung
hands-on – praktisch
variety – Vielfalt
skills – Fertigkeiten
founder – Gründer
upmarket – gehobene Preisklasse
power tool – Elektrowerkzeug
safety conscious – sicherheitsbewusst
to figure out – herausfinden
line – Zeile
it makes you wonder – da fragt man sich schon
take it with a grain of salt – es nicht ganz für bare Münze nehmen
to heal – heilen