Tag Archives: creativity

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

The Brick Chronicles :: Trolley

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!

Lego® Trolley

An electric trolley, made by R, age 9 1/2.

On most days, there are two nine-year-olds playing and working at my house. My son…and his friend. Currently, they are caught up in maps, city layouts and utilities. What started out as a paper project has now morphed into a 3-D Lego® world – and I am enjoying the creativity that is happening all around. This trolley is part of a larger city  – one that includes an articulated truck – complete with yarn for electric wires, O-trains and suburbs.

The Brick Chronicles :: Articulated Lego®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!

An articulated truck with a wheelchair ramp (in use). Made by R, age 9.5.

An tiny articulated truck with a wheelchair ramp (in use). Made by R, age 9.5.

The blue brick with the orange "dot" is the person in the wheelchair. The red brick with the yellow "dot" on top is the person pushing the wheelchair.

The blue brick with the orange “dot” is the person in the wheelchair. The red brick with the yellow “dot” on top is the person pushing the wheelchair.

Once everyone is on board, the ramp lifts up so the truck can drive.

Once everyone is on board, the ramp lifts up so the truck can drive.

 

Physics – Windmills – Week 5

We are a small group of five families who are helping our children to direct their own learning (at least some of it) through a project-based approach. We set the topic – physics – but they are leading the way and mapping their own projects. Check out the previous posts – Week 1, Week 2, Week 3 and Week 4.

N made this book about windmills and how they work.

N made this book about windmills and how they work.

During our last meeting, two of the groups were in the process of finishing up the “main” part of their project – the build. One of the groups was in the process of finishing their display poster, while the other was ready to present his project to the everyone.

As noted previously, a lot of the work is being done at home, which is great for individual projects, but more difficult for group projects. It’s hard to be motivated on your project when your partner(s) are not there. I think this is definitely something we all need to sit down and discuss as a group – should we assign everyone to work on one great, big project? Or should all of the projects be individual, unless you can meet with your partner during the week as well?

Since most of the projects were being “perfected” this past week, I wanted to show off N’s windmill project that he presented to the group. N’s project was an individual project and he did most of the work at home, without much help. He was genuinely interested and excited about his project and you could tell he put forth a lot of effort and creativity.

N created an elaborate farm (with a real working tractor) out of popsicle sticks.

N created an elaborate farm (with a real working tractor) out of popsicle sticks. The door to the barn opens and his windmill also turns.

A written report that he read to the group.

A written report that he read to the group alongside a poster of different types of windmills.

Cover for his homemade book on windmills.

The cover for his homemade book on windmills.

The kids were very attentive and appreciative of all the hard work that he had done. It was really amazing to watch them give him their full attention and for him to present his findings and his accompanying artistic work. Since we are homeschoolers, we have less need to formally evaluate the kids’ learning, but you could show off this book and poster and listen to him talk about windmills and know that he picked up a lot of new information.

Although, it’s not “true” project-based homeschooling, the parent (or teacher) could then suggest this challenge as a way to deepen the learning. You may even want to show them this video after they’ve tried it on their own.  Or, perhaps your child might decide that they would like this set for a birthday gift.

Often, I have found that kids aren’t quite sure how to deepen their learning and that’s where an adult facilitator comes into play. It can still be their choice, but you can help to provide some suggestions. Once they are ready, do the above research with them, so they can learn how to find it themselves.

To continue reading about physics and self-directed learning, go to Week Six – Catapult Presentations.

 

 

Book Review :: Tinkering – Kids Learn by Making Stuff

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.

Tinkering by Curt Gabrielson“It is sad to think that perhaps it is not the norm but rather something rare and special to see joyful kids learning.” -Curt Gabrielson

I am fresh off of the completion of my Coursera course on tinkering and feeling rather fired about this topic. Recently, a friend gave me Curt Gabrielson’s book, Tinkering: Kids Learn by Making Stuff. It’s part of the Make Magazine series of books and I happily dived in to see what he had to say.

As with many of the books on tinkering that I have come across, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that making, tinkering and building provides educational value. I don’t doubt it and I think observation is an important scientific tool. But, if you are looking for research studies that equate tinkering with learning, check out a different book. This book is FULL of projects. Stuff you can build and then lay out the supplies for the kids to build too. Pages after pages of projects that Gabrielson and others have done with the Community Science Workshop network (out in California).

Picture from Tinkering by Curt GabrielsonYou won’t find any step by step instructions here, but there are a lot of pictures and some great advice about what you, as a facilitator, will need to help kids begin tinkering. They even offer some really great ideas on how to store and organize all of those things that crop up for a productive afternoon of tinkering. Although the pictures are grainy and only in black and white, the ideas are enough to get you started. With chapters on sound, magnetism, mechanics, electric circuits, chemistry, biology, and engineering (with a special emphasis on motors), the children in your life will be bugging you to try out some of these projects.

Parents – hand the book to your kids and let them choose a project each month or do some focused project-based tinkering. This is problem-solving at it’s core and they aren’t getting a lot of that in school.  Although, the environmental-minimalist in me is cringing at the thought of what to do with those finished projects, I know they are important. So we do them anyway. And, take many of them apart when we are finished.

boys tinkering in the workshop

 

Making Stuff :: A French Board Game for Youngsters

As the “maker” movement becomes more and more popular, I think it’s important to step back and think about how people have been creating…well, for forever, really. That first spark of fire had to be something pretty amazing and that first lobster dinner? Yum.

I love that being a “maker” is becoming hip. It’s not just something the poor families do because they don’t have any money to buy that (fill in the blank). I love the empowerment that comes from being able to fix things and from choosing to make it – or spend that time elsewhere and purchase it. I love the push back against rampant consumerism and the ultimate care for the precious resources that we have on Earth. While I love exploring electronics, sewing, knitting, and helping my sons tinker with robots and programming, I really like being able to solve a problem by making something myself – in the most inexpensive, environmentally-friendly way possible. I think making is more than knowing electronics, computer programming or doing art. It’s about seeing everything as changeable – the possibility that it can become something else. And, sometimes stealing that idea from others and making it your own.

Homemade French board game with pictures, less words.

Homemade French board game with pictures, less words.

In the spring, I made this board game for my kiddos. We are a French-learning family and I am determined to conquer this language – despite the multi-year breaks that I take in between. (Yeah, that might be part of my problem). We are lucky enough to have a fabulous French-speaking teacher near where we live and my youngest son has taken classes with her for a couple of years. I had the privilege of sitting in on one of the classes and noticed she played a homemade board game that helped the kids with correctly interpreting questions asked in French. It was fun, the kids liked it and it reinforced the lesson without boring copy work.

I immediately went home and made my own. It was great French practice for me and a fun way for the kids to reinforce their learning.*  It’s been sitting on our shelves since the summer (our work schedules are quite hectic), but I am looking forward to bringing it out again soon. A homemade solution to a real-life problem that was done in one of the most environmentally-friendly way possible. I’m a maker. How about you?

 

 

*For those interested in recreating the game – the kids roll a die and have to name the picture in French or else they can’t move to that space. The pile of questions are at various levels of understanding and are pulled out when a child lands on a question space.

The Brick Chronicles :: Hinged Lego® Box

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!

Inspired by the Lego Ideas Book, made by R, age 9.5

Inspired by the Lego Ideas Book, made by R, age 9.5

My children love to build on their own and will often create new and unique things. But, they also like to be inspired (and grow their skills) by copying something that someone else has done. Often, I will see variations and modifications of a suggested project. We really are social beings.

From The Lego Ideas Book

From The Lego Ideas Book

The closed box - with hinges!

The closed box – with hinges and no instructions.