Category Archives: Me

Current Projects

Keeping Track of Projects

My husband and I tend to forget all of the really cool things we do – and work on – each year. We get caught up in the day-to-day activities of working, teaching children, worrying, making lunch (and dinner), cleaning the house (again) and shuttling kids to various activities. Like most people, we are often busy, so we need a little help remembering all of the unique things in our life. We are fortunate to experience new places  – and make a lot of cool stuff. Here’s what we’ve been working on lately:

Joe created a desktop (for me) from piece of plywood and trim. He' sitting it on a top of a re-purposed bookshelf (which he made years ago).

Joe created a desktop (for me) from piece of plywood and trim. It will sit on top of a re-purposed bookshelf. Oh yeah – he made the bookshelf years ago.

C (age 7) was so interested in the artist, Vincent Van Gogh that he created a 4-H project.

C (age 7) was so interested in the artist, Vincent Van Gogh, he created a 4-H project. Two weeks ago, he presented his project to a 4H judge. My shy, reserved son beamed when the judge praised his work.

R (age 11) wanted to submit another project for the 4-H non-livestock fair. This one is on his favorite architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

R (age 11) wanted to submit another project for the 4-H non-livestock fair. (He won a grand prize last year). This one is on his favorite architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

Liz has been developing her colored pencil skills. This drawing is based on an old penguin calendar we had years ago.

I have been developing my colored pencil skills. This drawing is based on an old penguin calendar we had; I used Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils.

Joe took our distressed, chipping dining table and stripped it. He then proceeded to sand, stain and lacquer it – repeatedly. It looks amazing.

FETC 2017

Code to Learn: Using Scratch to Demonstrate Learning

I’ll be at FETC this week – and will be talking about my hopes and dreams for how to use Scratch. I’ve done a lot of research on coding and creativity and I’m bringing my ideas to FETC (thankfully, my poster was accepted)! I will be discussing the in-depth learning projects I have done with some of my students. I also have a passion for integrating coding into the curriculum and would love to see if other teachers are doing the same (check out my Wright Brothers course).

Creativity in Coding

For the last few years, I have been teaching Scratch during the summer months. Most of the time we do projects related to video games or general learning projects (animations, mazes, etc.). My one-week camps do not leave enough time for in-depth research projects. However, for those returning campers, I am able to challenge them with more advanced Scratch projects. I’ve had students create interactive country projects and create fractured fairy tales. Even though I am not in a K-12 school, I hope teachers will find these ideas (and lesson plans) useful.

After reading articles by Mitch Resnik, Karen Brennan, and Samuel Papert (most well-known for his book, Mindstorms), I felt like they had created Scratch for this very purpose. After a bit, I realized they had. Check out their Scratch foundation.

Regardless, I think our mission is the same – to keep the creativity in coding. To use Scratch (and computers) to create and not just to consume. For the record, I am not affiliated with MIT or Scratch, nor do they endorse this poster session (though, I hope they would if they knew about it)!

If you will be attending FETC this week, I will be talking about my poster session on Wednesday, January 25 from 4:00 – 5:00 PM  – Booth #2500.

UPDATE: To find the Scratch lessons, check out the Scratch Lessons, Challenges & Prompts page.

Following our interests – drawing

Evolution of a Drawing Parent

When I was pregnant I had dreams of all of the cool things I would do with my child. We would sit together and color, go for long walks and do a lot of drawing. All of the parents can see where this is headed, right? My first child was born and he hated to color; he refused to pick up any writing instrument. He wanted to build, destroy and take things apart. He was fascinated by machines, noisy toys and television. So, I quietly put away my own interests (art and drawing) for his interests. We bought him wood blocks and spent hours building. We jumped into legos and computers. We taught him to create with these things, rather than to passively consume them.

a picture of a kid's drawing

Drawn by R, age 11. We’ve done some prep work from the book, Drawing with Children.

Same Parents, Different Kids

A few years later, we added another son to our family.  He seemed quieter and more willing to pick up a pencil, but he was enthralled with his older brother’s antics. And so I waited. My older son showed an interest in drawing (around age 8) and my younger son (now age 7) is also showing a strong interest in drawing and art history. I can’t say that I am an especially patient person, but I am thrilled that their interests are finally dovetailing my own.

A picture of a kid drawing a skyscraper.

C, age 6, drawing an Atlanta building for the city project.

Drawing Instruction at Home

Four years ago, a friend turned us onto Mark Kistler’s online video lessons. Since we’re homeschoolers, we buy a yearly subscription through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. The videos are separated by skill level and novice artists can stop the videos as much as they want. He takes the students step-by-step while infusing his lessons with the language of art. He speaks of perspective and shadowing. He addresses the importance of direction and the size of foreground objects. He does all of this while drawing – it’s his natural language and the students don’t realize they are picking up art terms. It gives them the confidence to add these elements to their own drawings.

a picture of a blob monster, drawn by a 7-year-old.

Drawn by C, age 7. Instruction by Mark Kistler.

Returning to Drawing

Although I incorporated art into our daily life anyway – it was to help the kids learn to love art – not really to increase my own drawing ability. During their younger years, I felt like I needed to become an expert educator/parent and so my art took a back seat for the past eleven years. But, after a little bit of soul-searching this past year (mid-life crisis, perhaps) and thanks to a few other resources (the book Essentialism, and the web site, Craftsy), I have brought art to the forefront of my life. I am drawing more and refining my ability. Thankfully, my kids are on board.

A picture of a hand-drawn, pencil drawing of a lily.

Drawn by Liz looking at a color picture of a lily.

 

Mistakes and First Drafts

Recently, my ten-year-old has been testing out my kid-friendly sewing projects. Although he has been sewing off and on since he was four, I’m grateful that he is so willing to test out new projects. This summer, I am teaching beginning sewing to a group of kids between the ages of 10 and 14, and he is the perfect age to see if my projects are ‘doable.’

A picture of airplane pin cushions

All made by kids, ages 10 and under

Sewing Mistakes, First Drafts

For the last two weeks I have been asking him (and my almost 7-year-old) to work on a lot of sewing projects. We’ve made cards and pins, bookmarks, wristbands and pin cushions. But, some of them didn’t go exactly as planned. For example, my older son wanted to make a bookmark – one where he sewed the right sides together and then flipped it inside out – except that it didn’t really work. He was frustrated, embarrassed and disappointed. He was also really afraid that I would take a picture of it! He shouldn’t have worried because I completely understand. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and hate for them to be paraded in front of me. I undoubtedly learn from them (quite a lot), but I quietly sweep them under the rug.

drawing of elephant

No, this is not a mistake, but my pride is about to take a beating. I feel obligated to show a picture of a “good” drawing. I can’t let the first drawing I post to this site be a terrible one. See? I’m no different than a 10-year-old!

Since he occasionally reads this blog, I devised this post as a way to parade some of my own mistakes, or first drafts, as I like to call them. Of course, these ‘mistakes’ are entirely self-selected. I’m not showing you the really ugly ones, nor am I parading all of those things that I’ve said (and shouldn’t). Nor am I writing about the times I’ve lost my temper or forgot that something was cooking on the stove. Ahem.

Just like a written paper (or blog post), I rarely create a perfect paragraph without a lot of tweaking. The same thing goes for our ‘maker’ projects. Below you will find some of my first drafts (ugly that they are…)

First Drafts

first draft of LED project

This was one of my first drafts for the LED constellation project. I was attempting to cover up the copper tape and SMD LEDs with a layer of painted tracing paper. It doesn’t look that good…

A badly drawn picture of my left hand

Ugh. This is awful. A quickly drawn sketch from a few years ago shows that I still need to work on capturing 3D images on paper.

A picture of sewing scraps

I started making this bag…over 6 years ago. Maybe even longer. I need to fix it slightly and then it will be close to finished. In the meantime, it’s definitely in ‘first draft’ mode.

A picture of a bad paper soldering joint

My soldering skills still need a lot of work and frankly, I’m not even sure how to solder conductive thread and conductive ink. It’s ugly. I gave up and just used tape for the second one.

Picture of sketches of nametag

These are some of the sketches, or first drafts, of the hand-sewn name tag I am making.

Just think – these are only the items that I could actually find in the house. Imagine all of the other things that I’ve had to redo so that it was just right, or at least good enough. As long as we are learning new things, we will have first drafts. And, second drafts. And, third ones too.

Rainy Day Reflections

Today I am listening to ::

:: Calum cooing and giggling on the floor next to me,

:: the thunderstorm rumbling (quite loudly) all around me,

:: the cats meowing with discontentment (about the storm),

:: Ronan and I singing – as per his request this morning.

There will be a lot of singing and thunder rumbling in our morning. As a kid, I loved rainy days – it meant the perfect excuse to lay around all day and read, read, read.

And, when we get tired of reading, I think some gluing may be in order.

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(Homemade apron – made by Aunt Jackie – check!)

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(Contentment with a q-tip, glue and some scraps? Check!)

What are your rainy day plans?

for the weekend

On the docket for this weekend: out-of-town friends, a zoo visit, and some mama-crafting! Heck, the house is already (mostly) clean, I may just party all weekend.

Well, except for the laundry. But, that doesn't count.

Here's a little preview:

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Have a wonderful weekend.