Tag Archives: creativity

Brick Chronicles – An Ode to Crash Course

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!

crash-course-set-in-legos

Made by R, age 10. After an epic morning of lego building, he emerged with this ‘Crash Course’ set.

Crash Course – Made with Legos

My ten-year-old has been watching Crash Course videos for a couple of years. He found them through Kahn Academy and introduced the entire family to John Green’s hilarious renditions of history. Not only is John Green funny, but these videos are highly educational and reinforce the short chapter lessons we are already reading about in our history curriculum, Story of the World.

I don’t assign these videos. I don’t have to. The kids (and I) love the format, and I think they enjoy them because they are vaguely aware of the people and events he showcases. Lately, I am being asked (more and more) if they can watch a crash course video during their down time. Quite often, I am sitting there watching with them. They are that good.

crash-course-in-legos

As my children like to say, “Mr. Green! Mr. Green!”

Language Alert for Crash Course

Depending on how old your children are (and how sensitive you are to language), parental supervision may be required. The videos are directed at teenagers and adults, so some “potty” language is to be expected. For my own family, I don’t worry too much, but my seven-year-old has also taken a liking to these videos. I like to keep an ear out while they watch, so we can discuss John’s language use, if and when such language comes up. It’s similar to Mike Rowe’s descriptions in the show, ‘Dirty Jobs.’ The content is engaging and has an appropriate delivery for adults, but you may need a little extra guidance with young ones.

Crash Course for Kids

That being said, there is a fabulous series called, Crash Course for Kids. I’ve used these short videos while teaching about the constellations. It’s a relatively new venture and at this point, the videos only cover science topics. Regardless, they are entertaining, fast-paced and provide another way to reinforce a particular topic.

crash-course-lego-yellow-chair

A close-up of the fireplace – and yellow chair – where John reads his “open letter.”

So, thank you, Crash Course staff, we appreciate all that you do!

Maker Camp 2016

A picture of two 4 inch handmade dolls - a boy and a princess standing in front of a night sky.

Boy character made by R, age 10. Princess made by Liz.

I am happy to announce my newest camp, Making in Action! This is a joint venture with another local, family-owned business, WizzBangz. Gwen Thompson and I have been teaching S.T.E.A.M. classes for the last few years (three for me, and four for Gwen) and we are excited to team up to offer this creative camp.

Maker Camp

The final project will be a stop-motion animation movie which will be written by the students. During camp, students will learn a variety of “maker” techniques, such as sewing, painting, using the resources at hand (that means a lot of cardboard) and in doing so, will learn about the engineering design process and the importance of trying, prototyping and making changes to their story and their designs.

A picture of a pipe cleaner 4-inch doll skeleton.

Learn how to make dolls from pipe cleaners with the book, Felt Wee Folk.

Through each step, Gwen and I will act as facilitators to each group of students. We will guide them through the design process and help them to edit and make changes to their story. In addition, we will be helping them to create their own characters and mini-sets. By creating their own characters, students will be utilizing problem-solving skills, as well as learning the value of multiple iterations and working collaboratively.

R, age 10, is sewing on the boy's clothing.

R, age 10, is sewing on the boy’s clothing.

We will be using a variety of materials and resources with a special emphasis on empowering our students with a maker mindset. We hope you will join us at The Einstein School for this fabulous camp. To register, go to Making in Action 2016.

A picture of half a cereal box painted to look likethe night sky...had two 4-inch dolls as a characters.

The backdrop is hand painted. It’s also made from half a cereal box.

What is Artisan Education?

Five years ago, our eldest son wanted to be a turtle for Halloween. We couldn't find a non-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles one, so we made it out of cardboard using paper mache and paint.

This turtle shell is made from cardboard using paper mache and acrylic paint. Handmade pants too! We couldn’t find what he wanted, so we made it ourselves!

Meet the twenty-first century artisans. They understand the value they are creating. It’s tactile. It’s real. They made it because they wanted it themselves. They can tell you exactly how everything is made and where their materials come from. They blend the proven tools of the past with the current tools of today, picking and choosing whatever suits their aesthetic.
– David Lang, from his book, Zero to Maker.

They Understand the Value They are Creating

I love this quote from Lang’s book, Zero to Maker. I love it because he values handcrafted items and ideas, but also because Lang’s thinking mimics my own. At the beginning of his “maker” journey, Lang questioned his education and wondered if he could teach himself something about power tools and underwater submarines. I love that he didn’t know where to begin, but started anyway. To me, this is an artisan education. A self-directed quest to create something from raw materials. It’s a “back to the land” movement, but with technology instead of food production.

According to my WordPress stats, my most popular keyword search is centered around the phrase, “what is artisan education?” Unfortunately, I doubt all of those inquiries are for our small tech business (though, it’s nice when they are).

Rather, I imagine people are looking for how skilled craftsmen, known as artisans, became educated.  The librarian in me wants to do a reference interview and guide the web searcher to a better resource, such as this site from The Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum.  Perhaps, they are looking for the history of how artisans were educated, which was primarily through apprenticeships. However, the artisan in me wants to explain my art, my training, my self-directed path of education and the small business that grew out of it.

Picture of a simple circuit using copper tape to conduct electricity and light an LED

To learn more about how circuits work, I used copper tape to light up a SMD LED. It’s an idea from The Exploratorium.

Meet the 21st Century Artisans

I consider myself to be an artisan. In fact, I think every good teacher is an artisan. However, I can also sew, knit, cook, manage a business, find information, and facilitate learning for a number of topics. Of course, I can do a lot more than that, but I’m especially proud that I taught myself how to sew, how to cook and how to knit. No one gave me a grade and no one stood beside me forcing me to do it. I struggled and fought for every piece of knowledge I earned.

School was fun because I loved learning and the work was easy. When I got a job, I enjoyed the novelty of it, but after a while it became tedious and monotonous. I missed learning. I thought about a PhD, but I had just graduated. I couldn’t go back to school. I needed to learn basic life skills, not just “school” skills. It took awhile, but I realized that if I wanted to keep learning, I was going to have to figure out how to do that on my own. I thought of something I wanted to learn and landed on sewing. I wanted to make my own clothes. I liked a certain style, but couldn’t always find the right color or style and disliked spending so much money on something I wasn’t too crazy about.

How Everything is Made and Where the Materials Come From

My mom knew how to sew and helped me make a few things when I was young, but I didn’t retain any of that knowledge. After running the gauntlet through AP high school classes, varsity sports and a part-time job, such frivolous skills seemed unnecessary and useless. What was the point of learning how to sew when you could just buy clothes? Purchasing pre-made clothing seemed to be a much more efficient use of time.

Like David Lang, I realized how very little I knew. Oh, I could study for a test and receive a diploma, but most of that knowledge was distributed from the top-down. Teachers or professors laid out the material, or pointed me in a direction, and off I went. To figure out how to sew, I needed to make my own path. I needed to struggle with sewing and no one was going to grade me (or pay me) for my progress. To top it off, I had to find my own teachers and resources.

Penguin fabric that became pajama pants for my boys.

It’s pinned and ready to go! This penguin fabric became pajama pants for my boys.

They Made it Because They Wanted it Themselves

Slowly, I learned how to sew and how to find the information to teach myself. I struggled and realized that to learn something well meant that I had to try again and again and again. I had to be content with poorly constructed garments because my technique wasn’t good enough. I had to find other teachers and “waste” money on trying new patterns and abandoning the ones I couldn’t figure out. I had to pay for classes and get out and make friends with people who  knew how to sew and quilt. And, I did. It took awhile and it wasn’t always pretty, but I did it.

I became a twenty-first century artisan because I wanted to make something that was just right for me. I wanted to reflect my own style and to take care of myself and my family with these time-honored skills.

A picture of 4 double-pointed kneedles and a tube being knit.

Learning to tightly knit a tube was made much easier thanks to books and YouTube.

Artisan Education

Which brings me to our business – Artisan Education. Artisan was born out of a need for hands-on classes for our (then) six-year-old. We wanted to help him follow his passion to be a robot engineer. Yes, he truly said that at age six. A few years ago, he was a solid right-brain learner who loved (and still loves) building with legos. He wasn’t interested in the traditional tasks of reading and writing. He wanted to build and work with his hands. A Montessori child if there ever was one, yes?

I sought out ways to incorporate his interests into his daily learning. He still had to work on learning how to read, but I also incorporated his desire to be a robot engineer. I looked for classes in our area, but there weren’t a lot of options – especially for his age. So, we stuck with legos until six months later, I discovered Lego Education. The rest, they say, is history.

A picture of Lego Education's kit, Simple Machines

The first Lego Education kit he did – at age 7. Simple Machines.

Here was a company who was using hands-on materials to teach the things my son actually wanted to learn. When I realized that they made tools for learning computer science concepts, my business was born. I could reach other students who had the same interest and help them to learn about computer programming, but still stay to true to my Montessori background. All of the materials are concrete, hands-on tools and offer multiple creative options. Repetition is encouraged and so is using the materials in a new way.  I also discovered other age-appropriate tools for kids to work with, specifically the icon-based programming language, Scratch.

They Blend the Tools of the Past with the Current Tools of Today

We named our business Artisan Education because we think that learning is an artisanal process. The type of material or learning path is going to be different for each person – even if those same people want to be robot engineers. Each path will be unique. We want to honor that type of learning and crafting. We strive to include a lot of creative paths for discovery, while still allowing students to work at their own pace. We utilize our tools of the past (the Montessori philosophy) with current tools of today (Lego WeDo, Ozobots, etc.)

A picture of a computer with Scratch on the screen.

Icon-based programming tools, like Scratch, help make writing code more accessible…and fun.

In addition to our technology-based summer camps, we also design and review online courses, putting our instructional design skills to good use. Like good teaching, high-quality instructional design requires a unique approach. And, like a librarian, you need to conduct an interview to determine what the client truly needs. These are the tools of our past and we are combining them with the current tools of today. We are twenty-first century artisans.

Picture of tomato soup with a heart drawn with cream.

Knowing how to cook – and how to improvise – is an important skill. My husband made this tomato-based soup for me on Valentine’s Day.

The Brick Chronicles :: Lego Food Truck

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!

A Lego food truck made by R, age 10, and C, age 6.

A Lego food truck made by R, age 10, and C, age 6.

This lego food truck was a multi-day, cooperative project as both boys worked together to build various parts of this truck. I had to laugh at how accurate they were in creating the pizza oven and walk-up windows. I can’t remember the last time we actually ate from a food truck, but apparently my boys are keen observers (when they want to be, anyway).  I am most impressed with the sense of detail that went into the design. Check out the following pictures as we explore the world of legos, food trucks and creative design.

The two drivers take charge of the food truck.

The two drivers take charge of the food truck. Eww- those windows need to be washed!

A brick pizza oven

A brick pizza oven

My favorite part of this lego food truck (besides the walk-up windows) is the intricate design of the brick pizza oven. Many years ago, we used to be regulars at a Sunday farmer’s market near Tampa (we’ve since moved from there), but oh, the pizza from the brick oven was fabulous. So amazing, apparently, that five years later my oldest son still remembers it fondly.

A worker retrieving pizza from the stone oven.

A worker retrieving pizza from the stone oven.

Although I didn’t get a picture of it, the outside part of the oven is removable for maintenance (I presume)? That way, no one has to be disappointed by a poorly cooked pizza. Just head up to the window and pick up your order – no box required!

Order a stone-fired pizza from this lego food truck.

Order a stone-fired pizza from this lego food truck.

Making :: Knitted Washcloths

It’s not always easy balancing my “simple living” persona with my crafty, creative side. But, it’s something that I eventually figure out because I have to be creating. I know a lot of parents feel the same way – especially those of us steeped in daily care. However, the maker mindset isn’t limited to parents. I also felt the creative drive as a young working professional – I just didn’t recognize it as such.

Shameless adorable picture of my then newborn and his hand-knitted baby blanket. (He's now six)!

Shameless, but adorable picture of my youngest son with his hand-knitted baby blanket. (He’s now six)!

Regardless, it’s something I need to do because it keeps my mind calm and my hands active. Many years ago, I learned how to sew and I used to be an avid scrapbooker. That was my art and I loved it. But, once I had kids…well, there was no time for multiple hours of crafting, so sewing and scrapbooking took a backseat to the daily demands of young children. Thankfully, my brain took it upon itself to encourage a new craft: knitting.

Blue cotton yarn and size 7 needles. Pattern made up by me.

Washcloth in variegated blue cotton yarn – knit with size 7 needles. “Pattern” made up by me.

I actually tried knitting eleven years ago – before I had my first child – but I found it so boring and tedious that I couldn’t understand how anyone would want to do it for long periods of time. I decided that knitting must not be my thing and went on with my other crafty projects.

But something strange happened when I was pregnant with my second child. I simply had to knit.

I can’t tell you why the time was right – maybe my pregnancy hormones were on overload?
I think I was desperate for something creative, but my tiny house and a very, very active toddler prevented any crafting time. Maybe my brain knew that knitting would be something I could take with me on our daily walks and park play dates? I can’t even claim an internal response to keeping my family warm. We lived in central Florida and were 15 minutes from the beach. It rarely got cold enough for a hat, let alone a wool scarf.

Whatever the reason, I ordered up some chunky alpaca yarn, bought this book and away I went. The first year, I made scarves and a hand-knit baby blanket. Then, I tried my hand at hats. I eventually took a class on intarsia and – with a lot of help – made a sweater for one of my sons.  I had become a knitter.

Hand-made hat - Blue Sky Alpaca Chunky yarn.

A knitter who lives in Florida.

A knitter who has some minimalist values.

Today, my knitting has to have a purpose and be very, very useful. Recently, when I felt that itch to knit, I checked out my small stash and looked at what I had – lots of skeins of cotton yarn. Not so good for hats or scarves, but just perfect for knitted washcloths.

Hand-made washcloth - made from Rowan organic cotton natural yarn. Knit with size 6 needles.

Hand-made washcloth – made from Rowan organic cotton natural yarn. Knit with size 6 needles.

This natural-colored washcloth was knit in Rowan Organic Cotton. I had a lot leftover from when my youngest son was a baby. The pattern can be found here. It’s a simple pattern, very forgiving, but enough to keep me from finding the knitting too tedious. Rows and rows of knit stitch can get tiresome. Thankfully, this pattern is pretty simple and as a result – this is the nicest washcloth I’ve ever made. So, of course, I started a new one which promptly went with us to the park.

Crafting while enjoying the amazing weather? I think that’s a great way to balance creativity with simple living.

Have knitting - will travel. I see a couple more washcloths in my future.

Have knitting,  will travel. I see a couple more washcloths in my future.

 

 

Brick Chronicles :: Mini Lego Microscope

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!

A micro Lego microscope, made by R, age 10.

A mini Lego microscope, made by R, age 10.

This mobile lab – complete with an over-sized telephone – is a forensic scientist’s dream. In addition to the bright red communication device, this lab also comes with a desk, chair, coffee maker and microscope. This is a scientist after my own heart – a coffee maker AND a microscope? Fabulous!

Our real-life experiences with microscopes have been few and far between, so I love that his lego men need one on a daily basis.  I am especially impressed with the use of the connector piece – typically used for movable walls or opening chests – to connect the lens of the microscope.

What are you going to make today?

Mini lego microscope and mobile laboratory.

Mini lego microscope and mobile laboratory.

 

 

The Brick Chronicles :: Wood Blocks :: Millennium Falcon

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!

A homemade Millennium Falcon, made by C, age 6. (Who hasn't even seen Star Wars).

A homemade Millennium Falcon, made by C, age 6 – who hasn’t even seen Star Wars.

Again, with the wood blocks. I know. I know. I just can’t help myself. I am too impressed and amazed at the creations that come from their brains that I have to share. This is creative thinking – taking something familiar and turning it into something else. Or, vice versa.

And, just a little secret between you and me – this child has never seen Star Wars. We’ve deemed him too young for the violence and the potentially overwhelming movie scenes. CommonSense Media says age seven – and age eight for Empire Strikes Back.  Besides, his brother had to wait until eight, so it seems to be a right of passage at our house. However, that doesn’t stop this younger sibling from learning all about these hidden gems – most likely from asking his brother, who is quite eager to share. But, it’s all well and good. They have something in common and hopefully, the creative juices will keep flowing.

The Brick Chronicles :: A Lego WeDo Challenge for November

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!

Lots of Legos®, lots of computers and a spark of an idea.

Lots of Lego WeDo sets, lots of legos® and lots of computers to complete that spark of an idea.

For the last few years, I have been gleaning ideas from the fabulous web site,  Dr. E’s WeDo Challenges. They offer monthly challenges  – taking a break during the summer – and they are incredibly creative. The site offers very few suggestions, so the kids are truly encouraged to come up with their own ideas to meet the challenge. This month, Dr. E asked the kids to consider the future of furniture.

The kids had every intention of completing last month’s Halloween challenge, but our projects ate up all of the extra time. This month, I made sure we wouldn’t wait until the last minute.  I pulled out the three WeDo sets, showed off the challenge and took a big step back.  After an hour of tinkering, they moved past the “safe” choice — a flipped bed — and started to make some modifications. I’ve noticed that copying is a great spring board for creativity (and love this ‘evolution of a maker’ post).  Can we build that – and once we do – how can we make it our own?

Check out R’s video submission for the November challenge – a combination alarm clock, burglar alarm and wake-up routine.

 

The Brick Chronicles :: Lego Ferry Boat

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!

A Lego® ferry boat made by R, age 9.5.

A Lego® ferry boat made by R, age 9.5.

IMG_1373This little creation was inspired by a keen interest in city transportation. There was an elaborate Lego city and my boys needed a quick and easy way to get around…hence, the ferry boat. I love the usefulness of upside-down legos!

The Brick Chronicles :: Wooden Blocks Football Stadium

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!

Homemade Gator football stadium, made by A, age 9.

Homemade Gator football stadium, made by A, age 9.

I know it’s not a unique Lego® creation, but I couldn’t resist showcasing this fabulous homemade stadium made from wooden blocks. I especially like that it has the most recent winning score. We’ll just forget about that LSU nonsense, shall we? Go Gators!

This is the swamp.

This is the swamp.

UF vs. Missouri

UF vs. Missouri