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Cardboard to the Left, Monsters to the Right…

C’mon, we know you want to sing it: Here I am, stuck in the middle with you-oo! And we’re right there along with you during these excruciating weekdays between excellent Maker events. We had a hootenanny at last weekend’s Cardboard Challenge. And we’re planning a hootenanny-squared for this Saturday’s Monster to Love building event. Consider registering early: we finally had to cap registration for the cardboard challenge and we expect Monsters to be equally popular.

You may have heard of Monster to Love, the Fort Collins company run by Ray Tollison and his sons, Sam and Ben, donates a hand-sewn monster to charity for every monster purchased. At Friday’s homegrown sew-fest here in Boulder, CO you and yours will have the opportunity to make two monsters: one to keep and one to give away. For $30 it’s not only a darn good deal for an opportunity to learn about the design-and-sew process from a family that lives it, but an opportunity to give a little monstrous joy to a child who could use it; Monsters to Love has given away more than 1,500 monsters to charities like Realities for Children in Larimer County and directly to hospitals around Colorado and abroad (because we all know that anywhere outside Colorado is “abroad”).

When you think about it, the idea flow is pretty logical for Sam and Ben, fraternal twins: you make two monsters, neither exactly the same, and then when you’re holding one monster you know that somewhere out there in the world is its twin.

“It makes you feel less alone,” says Ray, who by day is website manager for the aid organization World Relief.

Ben is the lead designer. Sam and Ray do the sewing. But they’re limited in their ability to reach people by the constraints of time and their 10 digits (well, 30 digits if you add them all together). Ray and the boys stopped by the Maker Boulder booth at the NoCo Mini Maker Faire and Ray said that he’s looking into the possibility of expanding past their basic Singer sewing machines. But until that happens, they need your help. And ours too: we’ll be there sewing and we hope you will be too!

Here’s the 411: Saturday, October 18, 3:00-5:00pm at Mackintosh Academy in Boulder. It’s $30 and preregistration is recommended. Parents should consider staying to help their kids under age 12 and the event isn’t necessarily recommended for mini-Makers under age 5 (you know: scissors, needles and all that).
Eventbrite - Monster to Love -- Create a Monster!

For inspiration, please see the Monster to Love Pinterest page, or the too-cute, ugly images below:

 

Why The D-School’s Alice Shi Kembel Lets Her Children Play With Trash (Part 4)

This week I’ve been writing about why I let my children play with trash (parts 1, 2 and 3 HERE, HERE and HERE). Here’s a hint: Not only will the ability to think innovatively help children develop a love for learning, but it will eventually prepare them to enter the workforce of a rapidly-changing world that faces complex challenges in the areas of technology, health care, the environment, and the global economy. Here’s the fourth suggestion in this 5-part series on how to foster innovation in children:

Teach children to view setbacks as a opportunities to learn rather than as failures, and encourage them to embrace an attitude of experimentation.

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Why The D-School’s Alice Shi Kembel Lets Her Children Play With Trash (Part 3)

This week I’ve been writing about why I let my children play with trash (parts 1 and 2 HERE and HERE). Here’s a hint: Not only will the ability to think innovatively help children develop a love for learning, but it will eventually prepare them to enter the workforce of a rapidly-changing world that faces complex challenges in the areas of technology, health care, the environment, and the global economy. Here’s the third suggestion in this 5-part series on how to foster innovation in children:

Provide scaffolding for children in their creative processes.

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Cardboard Challenge: ARE YOU READY TO ROCK!

This is a pile of cardboard. This is Colt standing on top of a pile of cardboard. This Saturday, you can stand on top of this pile of cardboard with Colt. Not only can you stand on it, you can rip into it with zeal and gusto and perhapd even aplomb to build whatever cardboard monstrosities you can possibly imagine. We’ll be building arcade games and boxtrolls. You can build a city or a maze or a robot or a VAMPIRE SQUID ROBOT! Or you can built NOT A VAMPIRE SQUID ROBOT!

Help us rip into this pile of cardboard. The ball drops at 10am on Saturday the 11th at Horizons K-8 in Boulder. We’re expecting a heckuva turnout, so please consider coming at 10am, maybe with your own roll of duct tape and cutty-thing (in competent hands only, please). If you like, register HERE.

The event is free, but we just shelled out a ton of cash to make events like this and the Boulder Mini Maker Faire happen and could really use your help earning back our shirts. Donations appreciated at the event.

Carboard.Pile

Why The D-School’s Alice Shi Kembel Lets Her Children Play With Trash (Part 2)

Yesterday I wrote about why I let my children play with trash. Here’s a hint: Not only will the ability to think innovatively help children develop a love for learning, but it will eventually prepare them to enter the workforce of a rapidly-changing world that faces complex challenges in the areas of technology, health care, the environment, and the global economy. Here’s the second suggestion in this 5-part series in how to foster innovation in children:

Emphasize that there is no “right” way to create something.

As adults, we often take a “teacher-learner” approach with children; we teach, they learn, and we tell them when they’re doing something right or wrong.  When it comes to innovation, use a “learner-learner” approach.  Resist the urge to instruct your child in the “right” way to do something; allow children to experiment on their own.  Children can often surprise us with the unique ways that they utilize materials to design what they imagine.  They may incorporate a material in an unexpected, novel way, or use a completely different process to create their ideas.  Instead of saying, “You should do it this way,” or, “That’s not going to work,” use neutral language that encourages independent thinking, such as, “That’s interesting, I wonder what else we could do with that,” or, “I wonder how that’s going to work.”  Give your child the opportunity to think for himself without the idea that there is a “right” or “wrong” when it comes to innovating, and both of you will likely learn from the process.

When my oldest son was a toddler, in a never-ending quest to keep him occupied and out of mischief, I found a painting activity in a book that I thought he would enjoy.  After spending twenty minutes setting up the activity, I presented the materials to him and said, “Look, you can use these paints on the sliding glass door and then wash them off with the hose!”  He performed the intended task for about three minutes, and then proceeded to experiment with mixing paint colors for the next twenty.  As a rule-following, structured person, I was tempted to tell him that he wasn’t using the paint the “right” way; I had, after all, invested twenty minutes of my time to create the experience that the book described.  Instead, I refrained from saying anything and followed his lead, and his paint mixing experiment ended up being far more intriguing for both of us.

Join us tomorrow for the next in this series: Provide scaffolding for children in their creative processes.


Alice Kembel and her husband, George, are recent CA–>CO transplants, having just arrived in town after immersion in the Stanford D-School. You can find Alice at www.aliceshikembel.wordpress.com.

Why the D-School’s Alice Shi Kembel Lets Her Children Play With Trash (Part 1)

Anyone visiting our home will stumble upon numerous unique creations designed by our three boys: bats with five-foot wingspans made of paper and masking tape, daggers whittled from sticks, bug zoos designed with wine corks and popsicle sticks, night vision goggles consisting of toilet paper tubes and duct tape, snake traps constructed from cardboard and string, and a two-pronged lice comb that my oldest son made for his kindergarten teacher out of wooden skewers and Scotch tape.

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Alice Shi Kembel’s Take on Captivity vs. Freedom for Mice & Mini Makers

Our former pet mouse, Snowflake, started out as snake food.  He and two other mice had been purchased by our son’s friend to use as bait for snake traps in the field next to his house in Park City.  When we returned to his house after a five day excursion to Yellowstone National Park, we found three mice in a colorful plastic cage, complete with a climbing tunnel, loft, and running wheel.  My three boys fell in love immediately, and spent hours playing with the mice, who they named Snowflake, Brownie, and Ribbon.

When our son Jonah’s friend and his mother returned to the house two days later, the mice had become pets in the boys’ minds, so it was a shock to them when Tyler announced, “I’m going to use the mice in my snake traps now.”

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DIY Bionic Rock Climbing Hand (c.o. MIT’s Hugh Herr)

Here in Boulder, we actually know who Hugh Herr is: the climber who lost his legs to frostbite on Mt. Washington, designed his own climbing prostheses, and used bionic feet to send the world’s hardest thin cracks. Herr now runs a biomechatronics group at MIT’s famed Media Lab. I talked with Herr for a book I wrote and, in addition to working on balance mechanics for “real” prostheses, Herr was deep into the creation of what he called a “spider suit” — basically, the elastic-like suit holds your arms and fingers in the flexed position, augmenting your pulling strength. With elastic help, climbers will appreciate the extra pep in their pull. Or…they would if the thing actually existed commercially. Until then, I offer this (moderately harebrained) prototype, which my kids and I actually product tested one afternoon up at Flag.

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Join us This Weekend at the NoCo Mini Maker Faire!

Did you know that the expression “chomping at the bit” is more correctly “champing at the bit”? If either describes your anticipation of the Boulder Mini Maker Faire, which seems impossibly far away at Jan 30-Feb 1, then please consider whetting your appetite (not “wetting” your appetite) this weekend at the NoCo Mini Maker Faire in Loveland!

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6 Pen and Paper Games That Rock the Shazbot

Picture it: there you are, trapped in the middle of Chicago-O’Hare on a four-hour layover, alone but for your two cranky and travel-weary kids. Somehow your phone is bricked, your laptop charger is fried, the TV’s are all playing infomercials, and the hand-held games are in the checked luggage. (Also imagine the airport’s out of both Benadryl and whisky—shame on you for thinking it! Bad parent.)

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. How will you survive?

Your only hope is to go boy scout versus doomsday survivalist on it.. Remember: you’re resourceful, resilient, always prepared, etc., etc.. You’d turn the Alaskan wilderness into a backyard barbecue with naught but a hatchet and a tarp. So too with Chicago-O’Hare. Your hatchet is a pencil (you know, the pointy thing that leaves a trail of graphite when scratched against a light-colored surface of certain friction), and your tarp is paper.

Here are six options for using said paper and pencil to merrily kill nearly infinite time. (Your first puzzle is trying to determine where one column’s caption stops and the next starts.)

1. In a grid like the one below, one player is trying to connect white dots to move from the right side of the board to the left; the other player is trying to connect black dots to move from the top of the board to the bottom. 2. Take turns drawing short, horizontal or vertical lines. 3. You can’t cross your opponent’s lines. Don’t get blocked!

1. In a grid like the one below, one player is trying to connect white dots to move from the right side of the board to the left; the other player is trying to connect black dots to move from the top of the board to the bottom. 2. Take turns drawing short, horizontal or vertical lines. 3. You can’t cross your opponent’s lines. Don’t get blocked!

 

1. Start with a graph-paper game board of any size. 2. One player is X’s and the other is O’s (write lightly in pencil). 3. Start with the position shown. 4. Take turns placing your symbol. On each turn, you MUST trap an opponent’s symbol between yours (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally), which you then flip to your symbol. (If you cannot trap at least one of your opponent’s symbols, you lose your turn.) 5. Once all squares are used, the player with the most symbols wins.

1. Start with a graph-paper game board of any size. 2. One player is X’s and the other is O’s (write lightly in pencil). 3. Start with the position shown. 4. Take turns placing your symbol. On each turn, you MUST trap an opponent’s symbol between yours (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally), which you then flip to your symbol. (If you cannot trap at least one of your opponent’s symbols, you lose your turn.) 5. Once all squares are used, the player with the most symbols wins.

1. Start with two or three dots on a page. 2. A move consists of two steps—draw a line between two dots (or to itself); and mark a new dot anywhere on this line. 3. Your new line may not cross any existing line. 4. Once a dot has three lines coming out of it, it is closed. 5. Whoever makes the last possible move, wins.

1. Start with two or three dots on a page. 2. A move consists of two steps—draw a line between two dots (or to itself); and mark a new dot anywhere on this line. 3. Your new line may not cross any existing line. 4. Once a dot has three lines coming out of it, it is closed. 5. Whoever makes the last possible move, wins.

1. Imagine the grid below were an open board of the kind used to play Connect Four®. 2. One player is X’s and the other is O’s. Take turns “dropping” your shape into the game board, where it falls down to rest on the lowest open spot. 3. The first person to make four in a row, wins.

1. Imagine the grid below were an open board of the kind used to play Connect Four®. 2. One player is X’s and the other is O’s. Take turns “dropping” your shape into the game board, where it falls down to rest on the lowest open spot. 3. The first person to make four in a row, wins.

1. Start with a matrix of dots, as shown. 2. Take turns drawing a line horizontally or vertically between dots. 3. Your goal is to make closed squares. If you close a square mark it as your own (place an X or an O in that box). 4. If you close a square, move again. 5. Once all squares are closed, the player with the most symbols wins.

1. Start with a matrix of dots, as shown. 2. Take turns drawing a line horizontally or vertically between dots. 3. Your goal is to make closed squares. If you close a square mark it as your own (place an X or an O in that box). 4. If you close a square, move again. 5. Once all squares are closed, the player with the most symbols wins.

1. You need four boards like the one shown, two for each player. 2. Draw your five ships on the board (as shown). 3. Take turns shooting, by naming grid spaces (i.e. “E-3”). The opponent calls a hit or a miss. Mark your shots on your blank grid and your opponent’s shots on your ship grid. 4. Continue until one player sinks the other’s ships.

1. You need four boards like the one shown, two for each player. 2. Draw your five ships on the board (as shown). 3. Take turns shooting, by naming grid spaces (i.e. “E-3”). The opponent calls a hit or a miss. Mark your shots on your blank grid and your opponent’s shots on your ship grid. 4. Continue until one player sinks the other’s ships.


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