Tag Archives: children

Making – Homemade Star Wars Costumes

This past spring, the parents in our homeschool co-op chose drama and theater as one of the classes for our weekly co-op day.

Thankfully, the parent who suggested doing a play recognized that he might have an uphill battle with this group of kids. They are mostly boys who love technology, playing ‘battle’ and building with legos.

But, then he suggested a few scenes from a Shakespearean rendition of Star Wars.  Well…you could have heard a pin drop. Those boys started to wrap their heads around the idea of doing a Star Wars play, and the rest they say, was history.

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The book is directed at adults,and not children. The language was sometimes odd and the first few readings boiled down to a translation session. The play was a little bit above their heads, but they learned something about Shakespeare, old English and how to make some costumes on the cheap.

Each family was responsible for creating their own costumes. After initially paper prototyping a C3PO costume, my husband and youngest son declared it ‘perfect’ and finished. (Thanks to two grocery store paper bags). We added some gold acrylic paint and his costume was ready to go.

As usual, my older son already had something in mind for how he would dress as a short robot. After scouring the house for the perfect-sized box, he created his costume entirely on his own. He drew out R2D2, and then painted the box, taking a few days between coats. He even cut a whole in the top so that he could pop his head through and say his lines.

Overall, the play was a success, they had a fabulous time and they flexed their creative making skills.

 

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.

Book Review :: Making Makers

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published on Fridays. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

picture of cover of making makers

Published by Make and written by AnnMarie Thomas, Making Makers is a good read.

Making Makers

Audience: Parents and Teacher
Thomas, AnnMarie. Making Makers: Kids, Tools, and the Future of Innovation. Foreward by Dale Dougherty. Maker Media: Sebastopol, CA, 2014

AnnMarie Thomas is an engineering professor (and parent) whose research focuses on technological literacy in K-12 environments. She is a leader in promoting play and learning, especially with regards to hands-on science materials for young children. Her five-minute TED talk on squishy circuits is fabulous, and I’m including it here:

Making Makers – the book

‘Make’ publishes some great books, and Thomas’ Making Makers is no exception. Many are written in narrative form and provide tons of examples and anecdotal stories. It would be nice if the grainy black and white pictures were better, but I think that keeps the price down.  I would much rather read about the inspirational projects featured in each book.

A picture of a grainy black and white picture from the book, Making Makers

While interviewing a number of professional “makers,” Thomas discovered a few traits that many makers seem to have. They don’t have every trait, but they might have a few, or they might have many. It seems to depend on what type of medium they are working with (robots, electronics, fabrics). Obviously, since she is an engineer, there is a heavy emphasis on electronic and engineering projects, but she is quick to note that sewing is definitely part of the maker movement. Who knew that all of those years ago when I taught myself how to sew, I really wanted to be a maker?

This book is sprinkled with interviews and stories about “makers” around the country. Most of them are well-respected in their fields and it’s fascinating to find out how they “fell” into their professions. Some had a love for it as children, while others were just creative, make-do kind of people and could switch mediums as they discovered a new interest.

picture of the table of contents from book, making makers

Becoming an Engineer

As a parent, I was interested in finding out how I could assist the “making” process that is already going on in my home. In her book, I found a lot of similarities between the skills I learned during my Montessori training, and those that I picked up from reading current educational research. Some of the best practices seem centered on encouraging your children’s “tinkering” interests, facilitating their learning (or finding someone who can) and making a point to continue learning yourself – all while trying to maintain a growth mindset.

Traditionally, many of our strong engineering students came from farming backgrounds. They would arrive at the university with hands-on experience maintaining and building equipment….while the mechanical savvy that many “farm kids” possess is often discussed, I see that as just one attribute shared among this group. Farm families depend on all members to do their part in getting the work done, and thus most farm kids grow up with a strong sense of responsibility.                       AnnMarie Thomas, Raising Makers.

My oldest son has been saying, since before the age of six, that he wants to be a robot engineer. Will he become one as adult? Who knows? My husband and I don’t care either way, but I do want to prepare him for the eventuality. As the grandson of two mechanically-inclined grandfathers, if there is an engineering gene – he has it. One grandfather was a “farm kid” who has a degree in engineering and the other can build anything out of wood. But, our sons aren’t being raised on a farm, and while we do have some  backyard chickens, I don’t think they count toward “farm life.”

So how is a Montessori tech librarian supposed to change her behavior to accommodate all of these future engineers?  Thankfully, it seems that all of the sewing and reading that we do also contributes to an engineering mindset.

Significance of Being a Reader

There was one point Thomas made that has stayed with me. She mentioned that most of these makers were avid readers as children. They weren’t all “good” students in school. Some struggled, some didn’t do the work, and some did well, but still had to work for their knowledge. However, they all knew how to find out more information – through books.

Although the web has made it “easier” to find certain things, the fact remains that books are still a great resource to begin your research. Certainly, I’m not discounting the wonderful information online, but I have found that we still need a good combination of both tools. Books and web research, combined with a good mentor, seems to be the path to successful learning. Of course, the interest has to be there first.

picture of green LED

You can’t see the 2 AA batteries that are powering the green LED, but the multimeter is measuring their voltage.

 

Book Review :: A Force for Good

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover science education books for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

Force_4_good_bookI know this book doesn’t seem to fit the mold of ‘science education’ or a ‘Montessori lifestyle,’ but stick with me – I promise I’ll make it work.

Toward the end of Dr. Montessori’s life, she began to talk more and more about educating children in an effort to achieve peace. She felt that through education, man could become fulfilled and then we could work toward a peaceful world. If you think about the context in which she lived – WWI and WWII – you can only imagine how strongly she must have wanted to find a solution to conflict.

It is this desire for peace – through education – that ties the above-mentioned book to a Montessori lifestyle. Part story and part biography, Goleman’s book walks us through the many facets of the current Dalai Lama’s way of thinking. Obviously he values compassion, understanding and forgiveness, but his comments eerily echo those of Dr. Montessori with regards to education. He feels that through compassion education we can open up communication and potentially avoid conflicts. World peace may truly be achieved if we can properly educate our children.

Of course, we need to begin with ourselves and be sure that we can identify our own emotions. As a Buddist monk, I imagine he’s had more practice than most of us, but this book shows how keenly interested he is in the science of being self-aware.

With an upbeat approach, Goleman recounts the numerous ways that the current Dalai Lama has made positive changes in our world. He also describes the ways in which the Dalai Lama delves deeply into scientific research, all to prove the value of his own mindful education. The result is a book full of hope – and a little despair – but with a positive vision for our future. It’s also a call to action and I am thankful for the reminder that I am part of a much bigger world.

 

The Brick Chronicles :: If I Built a House

The Brick Chronicles feature unique creations made with Lego® bricks. Hopefully you, and the children in your life, will find them as inspiring as I do!

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More stories, more creative challenges. After reading If I Built a House, the students came up with their own special house (or featured room)…with only their imaginations to limit them.

Built by Rebecca, age 10. The green upstairs is a secret hideout with a security camera and the downstairs has a pool with a diving board. My kind of place!

Built by Rebecca, age 10. The green upstairs is a secret hideout with a security camera and the downstairs has a pool with a diving board. My kind of place!

This room has windows and can detach with rocket boosters. (The green circle in the middle is a bean bag to relax upon). Built by Owen, age 7.

This room has windows and can detach with rocket boosters. (The green circle in the middle is a bean bag to relax upon). Built by Owen, age 7.

This is Colt's pool room, complete with a waterfall that you can go beneath and a water slide.

This is Colt’s pool room, complete with a waterfall that you can go beneath and a water slide.

An anti-gravity room with a giant flag. Built by Wes, age 9.

An anti-gravity room with a giant flag. Built by Wes, age 9.

This is a video game room with a big TV and a video controller in the middle of the room. Built by Rainer, age 8.

This is a video game room with a big TV and a video controller in the middle of the room. Built by Rainer, age 8.

This "Plant Room" was inspired by Elijah's mom. This room has grass walls, plants everywhere, a beach and a palm tree. Built by Elijah, age 8. (Elijah's mom - you are one lucky lady!)

This “Plant Room” was built for Elijah’s mom (who is one very lucky lady)! This room has grass walls, plants everywhere, a beach and a palm tree. Built by Elijah, age 8.