Tag Archives: Maker Movement

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.

 

 

Extensions for Robot Turtles

This is the second post, in a series of activities, that are designed to impart logic and computer science concepts without the use of expensive technology or one-on-one devices. Check out the first post about Robot Turtles.
After my older students have played through most of the rounds of Robot Turtles, we make our own game of Robot Turtles.

After my older students have played through most of the rounds of Robot Turtles, we make our own game.

During my Montessori training, we encountered a lot of extension material. For example, there were extensions for the pink tower which would reinforce the original concepts (biggest to smallest and visual discrimination). These extensions would also allow the students to use the pink tower in a slightly different way. A prime example is of pink cards that mimic a tiny tower. The square shapes are the exact same size as the cubes – on one side. It’s another way for the students to grasp the concepts that the pink tower means to impart.

In that same vein, I try to find extensions for the materials I use during camp. This week, we’re talking about extensions for Robot Turtles. Last week, I talked about how I use the board game, Robot Turtles, in my summer camps. I like it because it reinforces programming concepts in a new way. I also like that you don’t have to use a computer. Does that make sense? Yes, because much of computer programming is using logic to solve design problems (or how to make your characters appear, etc.)

Since many of my students lost interest after a few rounds of Robot Turtles, I wanted to find a way to reinforce the concept of giving specific instructions. (To be fair – it is designed for 4-year-olds). I decided that my seven to ten-year-old students should make their own version of Robot Turtles.

A half-finished, multi-day game that involves elephants and lava.

An in-progress photo of a game that involved elephants and lava – made by Rebecca, age 10.

This lesson plan evolved over the summer and toward the end, there were a few more guidelines than I initially thought I needed. My students had a hard time replicating the game,  but once I helped them get started, they seemed to take off.

I walked the students through making a grid (eye-balled for accuracy). This set the game board in a semi-consistent manner. Then, they had to think about the purpose of their game. Together, we talked about the different aspects of the Robot Turtles game – how does the turtle win, how does it move, etc. After we broke down the game, I asked the students to think about a game where they had some characters that moved, but who would also have to complete a task.

In the final version, I drew a large square on the paper to help the kids get started. Next time, I will have yardsticks on hand.

In the final version, I drew a large square on the paper to help the kids get started. Next time, I will have yardsticks on hand.

I provided pre-printed “movement” cards, but they could add additional “moves” if needed (see picture below). I checked on them as they were working – making sure the final game would make as much sense as possible (it didn’t always – and that was okay). We would play the game as a way of “testing” and they found the errors in their game design – and fixed them.

Hand-drawn set of command cards to mimic those found in Robot Turtles and other "instruction" games. I make a copy for each student. They have extra spaces to make their own commands.

Hand-drawn set of command cards to mimic those found in Robot Turtles and other “instruction” games. I make a copy for each student. They have extra spaces to make their own commands.

When they were finished with their games, I sat and played each one and encouraged them to play with their fellow campers. Now, they all had something to take home from “robotics” camp and when the novelty wore off – their parents could easily recycle it. This is really important to me as I hate to deal with the cheap, plastic crafts that come home with my own children. I don’t want to have to store (or throw something away) that they made in camp. And, since the kids can’t take home any of the robotics (due to the expense), I want to make sure that the stuff they do bring home can be recycled or reused.

Harry Potter game, made by Wes, age 10. Wes had just finished reading the Harry Potter series and he made a cool game with wands, muggle obstacles and a cast of Harry Potter characters.

Harry Potter game, made by Wes, age 9. Wes had just finished reading the Harry Potter series and he made a cool game with wands, muggle obstacles and a cast of Harry Potter characters.

I will admit, this project found more favor with my girl campers than my boy campers. My boy campers were just as creative, but they seemed to dislike the idea of adding color to their board games, whereas the girls would spend extra time making their games look complete.  My sample is self-selected (they choose to sign up for my camp), so perhaps the boys I attract are more interested in the Lego WeDos that are part of camp and thus dislike the use of paper and pencil?

Either way, it offered another way for my students to think about the concept of giving specific instructions. It wasn’t always easy, but it did offer a chance to be creative. The only requirements were that the board had to be a grid and the characters had to move by arrow commands – just like in Robot Turtles.

Wes made muggle obstacles - similar to the ice blocks and wood towers from Robot Turtles.

Wes made muggle obstacles – similar to the ice blocks and wood towers from Robot Turtles.

 

 

PBL :: Bridges

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, Week 4 Week 5, Week 6 and Lessons Learned.

My six-year-old's first time with a hot glue gun.

My six-year-old’s first time with a hot glue gun. He loves this method of tinkering.

Our project-based “class” continues to meet each week and the kids have finished up their initial projects, so they are in need of a new one. The class has evolved from a ‘group project class’ to one that allows the students to follow their own interests.  It was left to each parent to decide whether or not their children needed to stick with the original topic of physics. My own kids went in opposite directions, but my youngest chose to study bridges. I thought it was quite sporting of him to choose a topic that still relates to physics!

In fact, this is a topic that has resurfaced in the last four or five months, so I knew it was something that truly interested him. Often, my children will mention something and in the past, I would jump on the topic – only to find that it was a shallow learning request. The interest wasn’t there for an in-depth study. I’ve since learned to be patient and see if the topic is brought up again – in a different situation – to determine if my children are truly interested.

C, age 6, begins his self-directed project on bridges. His only "requirement" is that he teaches what he has learned to the other kids at co-op.

C, age 6, begins his self-directed project on bridges. His only “requirement” is that he teaches what he has learned to the other kids at co-op.

Thankfully, we had a friend who did an in-depth study of bridges last year, so I had some ideas of how to help my six-year-old. Perhaps because of my Montessori training – or the fact that I am a kinesthetic learner – I always try to find a concrete, hands-on way to introduce a topic. And, since this is supposed to be a self-directed project, I showed him this K’nex set and asked if he would like to begin his bridge study with that. I received a resounding “yes!”

One of the projects we found suggests learning about the strength of an arch.

One of the projects we found suggested learning about the strength of an arch. We used his brothers library books to weight the sides of the paper.

In addition to the borrowed K’nex set, we also went to the library where he found all sorts of books on bridges to check out. Unfortunately, many of them were meant for parents, but we did find a story or two.

Pop's Bridge - be Eve Bunting - is a multicultural story about the building of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Pop’s Bridge – by Eve Bunting – is a multicultural story about building the Golden Gate Bridge.

After doing some reading and playing with the K’nex set, he built a cable-stayed bridge. Would I have chosen to build one of the more advanced bridges first?  No!

I think that project-based learning provides many opportunities to observe your children – as their own people. It’s quite humbling to realize that neither one of my children wants to build the items in the order they are suggested. Instead, they decide which one looks the most interesting and they build that. At least I think that’s how their brains work.

Thankfully, he was able to build it entirely on his own and then decided that he needed to draw it and create another one – out of popsicle sticks.

C chose the first bridge he wanted to build - a cable-stayed bridge.

C chose the first bridge he wanted to build – a cable-stayed bridge.

He decided he needed to draw a picture to be able to make his popsicle bridge. Hot glue is amazing.

He decided he needed to draw a picture to be able to make his popsicle bridge. Hot glue is amazing.

He then chose to repeat this formula with the beam bridge and the suspension bridge. All of the work was done on his own. He asked for help with the initial pillars , so I held those in place while he glued them down.

In the background - a cable-stayed bridge. Foreground- a suspension bridge and on the far right - a beam bridge.

In the background – a cable-stayed bridge. Foreground- a suspension bridge and on the far right – a beam bridge.

At this point, he is a bit stuck. He wants to bring the K’nex suspension bridge as part of his presentation, but he still wants to build an arch bridge and a double-bascule bridge. Unfortunately, he doesn’t want to take the suspension bridge apart and rebuild it. So, I think it might be time for me to step in and suggest some of the projects from this book. We’ll see how it goes.

To read the next post on self-directed learning, continue to the presentation on bridges.

Lessons Learned

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, Week 4 Week 5 and Week 6.

R is hard at work on his ever-expanding city map for an Ozobot robot.

R is hard at work on his next project — an ever-expanding city map for an Ozobot robot.

We finished all of the project presentations last week and so this past meeting we had kids wondering what to do next. To be perfectly honest, I thought they would just be done with this class for the Fall, but one our parents had a great suggestion. She told her kids that they needed to pick a new idea to research – and to create a new project and presentation. They were all for it. And, yes, in retrospect, that does seem like a pretty obvious next step.

The students are now familiar with the relaxed format of the class and many of the them began new projects this past week. I think I’ll be continuing the project documentation, but I have to limit it to my own children’s projects. There are just too many to keep track of otherwise.

In the interest of learning from our mistakes, miscues and general experiences, I compiled this “lessons learned” post about our first-ever once-a-week, homeschool co-op, project-based learning class.

1. Self-directed project-based learning is good. But, facilitators are important too.
Each child (or group of children) completed a project and were happy with their final results. The design, research and presentation skills that they practiced were well worth any perceived shortcomings. Since there were so many different projects, I don’t think the students reached the depth that is typical of many self-directed projects. In the experiences with my own children, I will often do some side research to find hands-on materials that might help them deepen their understanding. Until we tried self-directed project-learning as a class, I didn’t realize how much “behind the scenes” work I do to help move my children into deeper learning. Quite often, it is still their choice to choose which materials to use, but it helps to have an adult finding those hard-to-reach materials and activities…and leaving them out to be discovered by the kids. This didn’t happen for every group at our co-op. So, to fix that problem, I might suggest…

2. When working with a group, choose ONE topic or project.
This can still be chosen by the students, but I think it would make for a better understood topic. For instance, the kids could have chosen to focus on gravity and then figured out a way to create a project or presentation as a group. I think the learning would be deeper as they discuss ideas with one another and create a unified project. As the designated facilitator for this course, I had too many different projects to keep track of, to document and/or to help gently push along.

3. Space and supply access really do matter.
While we are quite happy with our borrowed space (it’s free, after all), we definitely lacked materials and the right supplies. Many of our projects were wood-working and that doesn’t exactly lend itself to portability. It was much easier to help my own kids at home when I knew where to find the hammer, safety glasses and wood glue. Being in a well-designed space was also much better for the last minute changes that often occur with a self-directed project.

4. Tinkering is great, but…
For the catapult projects, the tinkering that the boys did was great, but it seemed to limit the depth of their projects. Only at the end did they haphazardly throw together some written research and while I know that they learned a lot – I don’t think it was as much as they could have (but maybe that’s the parent in me talking). With their new projects, I have been encouraging my kids to do some reading and research before working on their “final” project. Sketches and designs are okay, but no full-scale models until we’ve done the research.

5. Different ages have different expectations.
This isn’t really something that we learned, but rather I think it’s important to point out. The group of two young boys (ages 5 and 6) had a completed catapult, but no “official” presentation materials, whereas the group of three nine-year-olds had a wooden catapult and a tiny presentation. They also did a lot of their own research and it shows. It wasn’t nearly as thorough as the 11-year-old’s presentation on gravity. Help your students…not too much…but more if they are younger.

6. Group learning is part of the project.
Sometimes I was part mediator, part teacher, part parent for a couple of the groups. With a clash of different personalities, learning to work together is just as important as learning about  the topic. But, they need help. It’s important that the louder, more organized group member doesn’t railroad the quieter or less-prepared group members. Each member is equal and it’s important for everyone to figure out how to work that out.  That doesn’t mean assigning jobs, but it might mean that there is more mediation, discussion and written goals to be sure that everyone is happy with the direction of the group. I can’t say that I did this perfectly, but I recognize that this is an area where I can improve.

Overall, the project-based class was a big success and the kids have already chosen their next projects. Some will choose science topics, whereas one of my children is studying cities and the other has decided to explore bridges. But, more on that next week…

Kid's drawing of a cable-stayed bridge

C’s next project is learning all about bridges…using popsicle sticks and a glue gun. Fun!

To read about the next self-directed project, continue to the post about bridges.

 

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.

 

 

Project-based Learning :: Physics :: Week 4

 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 and Week 3.

There was a lot of sawing and gluing going on this week.

There was a lot of sawing and gluing going on this week.

Although the time spent “in class” was much shorter than previous weeks, I think the kids (and adults) pushed through the tough parts of indecisiveness and now have clear research goals in mind. I wasn’t so sure last week.

As this series is a reflection on project-based learning (as part of a once-a-week class), I have noticed that much of the “learning” that happens seems to be going on during the week at home. It’s been difficult to bring all of the materials that are needed (even though we try), but projects change at the last minute and new materials are needed and at our borrowed space, we just don’t have the tools we need to keep crafting (or learning). We have to bring everything and since the projects are not so clear-cut, this has been our biggest obstacle. What we really need is an open, inexpensive makerspace for kids!

There are also some other “distractions” at this space – lots of indoor play equipment that are beckoning the kids. And, they need that. We understand, but at the same time, it seems there was more focus when we were at the library with no space to engage in physical play.

RG looks over some of the hardware to see if there is anything that will work as an eyelet for their catapult.

RG looks over some of the hardware to see if there is anything that will work as an eyelet for their catapult.

I think the projects are progressing quite well, but I can really only speak to the two groups that my own children are a part of since much of the learning and doing has been going on at home.  I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but it is perhaps different than what I had originally intended. An hour-long class, at a less than perfect space, hasn’t been as useful once the initial “tinkering” phase has worn off. Also, having to wait a week between each meeting is hard for young kids – they really lose the momentum if they aren’t working on the projects everyday.

Catapult Building – group of three 9-year-old boys
My eldest son is a part of this group and has done some previous self-directed project-based work before this class. Therefore, I could see how easily his group lost the focused momentum during the regular class time. In addition to reminding them about their previous goals, I also made sure to provide some blocks of time for catapult research/design during our home learning time. And, since one of his fellow group members is at our house quite often, it was very easy to incorporate both boys into the mix.

At the end of the last session, these boys had decided to focus on one catapult model that RC had made. Though the boys had seen it during a video chat, RC’s model didn’t make it to the class meeting. So, the boys had agreed to remake the model for the upcoming class. And, as will often happen with these type of projects, the two boys at my house looked at the web site and decided that this model would be easier to make and potentially scale up at a later date. After a quick trip to the home improvement store, the boys came back and began measuring and marking their wood pieces. We already had a coping saw and a regular handy saw and the boys used those to trim up the pieces that they couldn’t get cut at Lowe’s.

Using wood glue to make a catupultAfter sawing most of the pieces, they brought the rest (along with the clamps, saws and glue) to our meeting place for their third team member to help. They consulted the plans and began the long process of gluing, and then nailing the parts of their catapult together. Everyone left the class agreeing that the two boys would complete work on the catapult at our house, while the third boy would begin work on the science research.

After each part was dried, the kids used child-sized hammers to nail in the parts. They learned a lot about keeping a nail straight!

After each part was dried, the kids used child-sized hammers to nail in the parts. They learned a lot about keeping a nail straight!

Catapult Building – group of two boys (ages 5 and 6)
Again, this little group seems to be hindered by the long stretch of time between meeting sessions. One child is barely five and the other is six-and-a-half and these two are the youngest in our group of learners. The focus and interest is there, but it requires more guidance (not necessarily instruction) from the adults. They definitely have their own ideas, but they really need someone to sit with them and keep them on track for a longer amount of time.  Last week, they did manage to cut the dowel for another part of their catapult model and then promptly called it quits. The playground was beckoning!

C and G are marking and measuring a dowel

C and G are marking and measuring a dowel

C is cutting the dowel for the rod part of his catapult.

C is cutting the dowel for the rod part of his catapult.

Since my youngest son is in this group, I made sure to block some time for him to think and work on his catapult design. He was quite determined to add a particular piece to his design and was quite frustrated that I couldn’t see the same picture that he had in his head. So, he decided to draw it.

He needs this type of metal clamp to hold down the twisting part of his catapult.

He needs this type of metal clamp to hold down the twisting part of his catapult.

Once I could see what he was talking about, I realized how I could help him. Instead of running out to the hardware store, we brainstormed some ways that we could make the fastener. He ended up choosing one I had bent out of a toilet paper roll. It served the same purpose and he could use tape (lots and lots) to hold it in place

Of course, he had to cut the dowel to the right size first…after measuring it with a tape measure. I did step in a little bit with some guidance and adult know-how for this part – if only because I didn’t want to run out and get another dowel when he cut this one too short. I merely asked him more about the function of the dowel – to ensure that he recognized that his measurements had a purpose! Previously, he had decided that he wanted to cut the dowel six inches long…because six seemed like a good number. Oh, so cute.

C is cutting another dowel - to attach to the first one - this time at home.

C is cutting another dowel – to attach to the first one – this time at home. Please don’t look at his footwear. I’m finding some comfort in the fact that at least he is wearing safety glasses!

Other Projects
The other projects are progressing nicely and I think that many of them will be moving on to the scientific research stage at the next class. Many of the projects have been explored on their own – during home study time. This is fabulous and although not completely unexpected, I was hoping for more dedicated work time as a group. Oh well. I’m enjoying watching the process unfold and already planning for the changes I will make for our next project-based group endeavor. In the meantime, the kids have two more weeks of class time before they present their findings to everyone. It will be interesting to see how the research and/or display information will evolve among the groups.

Catapult supplies - wood, tape measure and rubberband.

Catapult supplies – wood, tape measure and rubberband.

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.