Sunday, January 22, 2012

Squishy Circuits: Learning and Expression Go Hand in Hand

We Made All Kinds of Things from david wells on Vimeo.

WHAT: We Made All Kinds of Things by David Wells
DOES: inspires a child to keep the learning alive through different media: music and video; maybe they will want to make their own song and/or video too; either way, this video inspires this parent to keep thinking outside of the box
INVEST: under tres minutos of your precious time
TOOLS: Express Yourself, Foment Love of Language, Remember to Learn, Family Fix-it (fix Mom's behavior)

Once my family had a "staycation" which I felt was better than our sometimes used alternative of "no vacation."  Still, after having orchestrated every single activity for seven days straight which included a hurricane in New York City, I was in great need of seeing my kids talk about their memories of that week.

This is not always easy to do.   Since the purpose was to get them to make something to help them REMEMBER what they experienced, I should have let them do it in the medium they most felt comfortable, even if that was a piano!  Instead, I did the awful thing of trying to make them draft a report.

I am not that bad.  I did collect a bunch of receipts, schedules, and maps from the various places we visited. I thought this would be good enough to get Number 1 to write a few sentences but no......... In response to this "assignment", Number 1 proceeded to take the paper that I gave him to make his "book" and start cutting them into strips to make a collage timeline.

Why can't he just do what he is told?

He can't.  He is my kid and he just can't.  If there is a better way for him to express himself, he will do it.

He ended up making an unbelievable collage. I helped him sequence the events after he finished just by adding numbers to the scenes in his collage.  To help with creating language to describe the events, I wrote down his words in bubbles and put them next to the scenes.   Then, I sent an email to his art teacher thanking her for always letting him express himself in whatever way he felt like sharing his thoughts. Obviously, he had at least one grown-up in his life that didn't cramp his style.  (See what I said about her here)

I don't know why I don't have a picture to show you.  Maybe someday I will find it but either way, this is the memory that comes to my head when I see this video that was created by David Wells, multimedia installation artist, and the Curriculum Developer at the New York Hall of Science. (Click here and here for his websites.)

I did not ask David why he made this video.  All I know is that it is a great song for me and my kids.  This is going to be great for them to watch after they played with the circuits.  When we have an experience, we often ask kids to make a report or tell us about it.  Sometimes the kids even draw or take pictures.  These are good things but lately I have been seeing that Number 2, as much as he likes trains, likes music perhaps even more!  He is only four but when I asked him to make a song once, it was like he just knew what to do. And then he really did make up a song with the ease and comfort of someone who had been doing it for years.

Making Things You Can't See or Feel (with Your Hands)

This video reminds me that we don't always have to have concrete things in our hands to be creative beings.  We can write a song about it.  Hey, we can even blog about it.  This month alone, I have talked to a good number of parents whose children are totally into filming and professing their great ideas online ranging from topics that include the Republican ticket (for real, he's 10) and how to master various games on the Nintendo Wii.

Kids now have much more at their fingertips to express their ideas.  This has got to be a good thing. Just ask Beth Rosenberg, another expert educator who'll be here at Toys are Tools hopefully very soon! If we remain a part of all of our children's creative/expressive processes and not stomp our feet on the ground shouting "essay! essay! full sentences!" like yours truly, I really believe we will be letting our kids build the same problem-solving skills that they will use when they start working.*

Like this video above, we can take a  great experience and express the memory in a song.  Today, your kids will write a song about playdough circuits and those fabulous LEDs.  Tomorrow, it will be about how they don't need no education and how they don't need no thought control....  (oh wait, that's been done already)

Number 1 is at it again....  The Zibits are in "Maze Tag" and he causes confusion as he uses one remote control to control two Zibits of the same design but different color.

A heartfelt thank you to AnnMarie P. Thomas, Assitant Professor of Engineering  and her team at the UST Design Lab at the University of St. Thomas for sharing this concept with the world.  Additionally, enormous bundles of gratitude go to the  Squishy Circuits Store for making a kit to help families everywhere enjoy making these crazy circuits at home.  Congrats to the winners of their generous giveaway here at Toys are Tools: Joel, Linda, Michelle, Karina, Martianne, and Meera.

*Let's be clear, he'll still work on those essay writing skills and any other kind of writing that he is required to do.  Schools still require that you express what you know through written expression.  Most of us still write our resumes with words and still can not give our co-workers and bosses office memos in collage or musical formats.  Someday......

Disclosure: Toys are Tools did not receive any compensation by any of the mentioned products and/or its retailers in exchange for the publication of this post.  We did however, receive a few sample kits to review.  Reviews were not promised in exchange for submission but I knew we'd be uncovering something wild.  Who wouldn't write about this kit!

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