Sunday, August 29, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Getting children to create their own toys and play environments using everyday junk that is easily available to them at no cost. Helping them attribute character and story to the toys as well as understanding the inherent science in the structure of the toys.
the PRODUCT now
A bank of toys and structures which is the basis for creating characters and environments in which these characters interact.
A manual which has templates / instructions / tear outs / stickers etc which help children make the 3-D toys (characters and structures)
A mat which provides a base on which the entire constructed environment can be placed and interacted with.
Creating a book which would tell the story of a sequence of toys and characters who would be the props that the child constructs while they read the story. A linear narrative which tells the story of the creator of the toy factory who found a new life in everyday junk and used it to build the factory and invent lots of new toys.
Idea 2 :
Creating a series of mats which provide a base on which the toys can be played with. The mats create the environment. They have 3-D elements like pop-up buildings / trees etc. The mats could be attached with pull out instructions which help you make the toy. There would be a series of mats which could be tiled to build a story.
-The come-back value to a linear narrative. The motivation to make these toys again and again.
-The environment of the toy simply being provided and not improvised upon by the child in any manner.
-The toy being used only as a prop not bringing out the true essence of the toy – No understanding of the science or freedom/role in building the character of the toy.
-No particular push to use the junk itself. Only a subtle motivation to use junk through the underlying story. -Difficulty in sequencing toys to relate to each other to create the entire narrative. Limitation in the toys.
-The mats would create a further problem of sequencing the story for the child. Interaction steps would be increased in a confusing manner.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
An Article i read - Some experiences on applying play to learning.
by Leah Mann with editing assistance from Diana Coogle, Amy Williams and Ela Lamblin
What if, in school, everyone always got to play? What if the concept of learning always included the concept of fun? Ela Lamblin and I, cofounders of Lelavision Physical Music and performers and presenters at the New Horizons For Learning 2004 Summer Conference, often work in classrooms to bring a sense of play to the tasks of learning.
For instance, I was recently teaching a group labeled "below grade level" readers. We were working on pronunciation and word recognition, specifically on the concept of digraphs: two consonants that make one sound. Digraph is a strange and difficult term, but these students will always remember it and what it means. Suddenly, I clutched my throat and fell on the floor feigning a dramatic death and said we would be working on "di"graphs now. The kids loved it and joined enthusiastically into the game of "ch, ch, chugging" around the room, "sh, sh, shuffling our feet, "wh, wh, whirling about.
Surprise is a playful and underused teaching tool.
In another class near one of the largest housing projects in Seattle, a middle school student just couldn't curtail his beat boxing. Instead of asking him to stop, I suggested he work with me. We became collaborators as he stood at the front of the class and backed me up with a beat while I rhythmically and arrhythmically gave directions for the assignment. The class got the instructions, the musical student felt affirmed for putting his beat in an appropriate context, and everyone got a good laugh. Fostering this sort of habitat of adventure and collaboration is another fun tool.
I am generally in schools as a guest artist or for residencies not more than eight weeks. But you educators are there every day as "significant others" and role models for these students, our future. And I am here to encourage you to take seriously not taking yourself so seriously!!
The work of play is part of Lelavision's mission, as demonstrated even in our name. "Lela" is a Sanskrit term meaning "creative spark," the aspect of creation that is "play." Ela and I bring creative play into the classroom because we are immersed daily in this messy fun as our work. We want to inspire everyone we have opportunity to work with to nurture their imagination and creativity throughout their lives.
Ela, Lelavision's resident inventor, fabricates musical sculptures, learning about and applying whatever engineering and physics principles are necessary for strength and aural capabilities. Once the sculpture is structurally sound, we begin playing, improvising and experimenting with it to find compositional and choreographic possibilities. Sometimes it takes us two years to complete this big learning-curve process. We consult and study with other experts to fully realize our hybrid integration of forms. For our most recent project, we consulted engineers from Boeing and studied Classical Indian dance and music from a visiting professor from the University of New Delhi. We transposed that "information" to instruments that look like flying saucers and volcanoes.
Learning and play can be simultaneous
At the New Horizons Conference, Lelavision will demonstrate the manifestation of this art process I just described in performance as well as provide experiential activities from our kinetic, aural, spacial and play-filled tool belt. Within our process of discovery and creation we have a motto: "Never let the fear of being bad at something stop you from trying!" We learn so much from our "mistakes," and often they become unexpected discoveries that feed and propel our work forward.
What does Ms. Frizzle of The Magic School Bus say? "Let's get messy, take chances, make mistakes!!!!" (And learn from them!) I'd like to think that this mentality could propel students through graduation!
When Ela and I teach residencies, we often ask the students, "If necessity is the mother of invention, what would you create?" Across the board, whether students are affluent or impoverished, the number one answer is "a money-making machine." Though children in our western society seem to think the solution to their problems is best solved by outside sources, all us educators have the great opportunity to encourage them to look inward, to use their brainpower and imagination, which is their best, most accessible tool.
The second most common reply is "a homework machine-- because schoolwork is no fun." But what if fun and learning were merged more often? When Ela was young, his father made a deal with him, saying "I won't buy you any toys, but I'll help you make whatever you want." This symbiotic learning/playing process has fostered a lifestyle based in a love of science, math, engineering and invention. That same creative and learning-based lifestyle blossoms into our performances and underscores our teaching. Using gestures and sounds, we teach physics. Using whole-body and group sentences, we teach grammar. Using students as the polyrhythmic equations, we teach math.
What will your doorway be?
You know the saying? "Give a person a fish and they eat for a day. Teach a person to fish and they eat for a lifetime." How can we teach our children to have the gumption to stand up to life with all its challenges with well developed skills in invention, creative problem solving, self-motivated learning / inquiry / discovery?
What if education was fun and everyone got to play? What if the joy of learning radiated from everyone in the classroom – teachers and students alike? Would students stay in school? Would they score just as well (or better!) on standardized tests? What if "creative spark" set afire the imagination to serve all subjects and "play" became a synonym for "learn"?
This is big, and yet in a sense, no biggie. Incremental steps are key. First, start by teaching and leading from your own delight!
What is fun to you?
Because the converse of "Do what I say, not what I do" is truly one of the most powerful teaching tools.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Since the workshop was to be done with an older and more intimate group I planned the workshop so that we would make a range of the slightly tougher toys which would help them to relate to some of the science they've studied at school.
I realized that with an older age group the aspect of a story reduces and the possibility of building characters with the toys is also not as exciting.
The children werent as attached to the toys as the younger children or as fussy about the materials and were open to experimenting and coming up with their own toys based around the toys we made.
This workshop was done more informally. Taking the workshop outside of school and with the small group made it a little less planned and more interactive in terms of what they did with the toys.
We began with making the Straw Spinner which took a while and several attempts to get right for most of the children, but when it came to understanding how it works they were quick to bring up propellers and the air being blocked by the finger (on the thinner straw) and coming out of the diagonal holes (in the thicker straw).
To keep the motion of something spinning going we put together the Ball in the Air toy which was quick on the assembly. Using the bottle cap limited them to trying to get the ball to spin. But once we removed the bottle cap and got the ball to spin by blowing air through the straw, they began trying it with other things as well and made it into a game of shooting stuff at each other through the straw!!
We went on to making the Sudarshan Chakra toy which was quite easily figured out by most but they were able to get it right and showed much more interest when i presented the formula for getting it to work everytime. They were able to relate to what a Centrifugal and Centripetal force is through the working of the Chakra.
To further explain the concept of the forces we put together the coin in the balloon as a demo which they were able to relate to a biker taking rounds in a circus. They had to be prompted in order to make the connection but seemed like they understood it with ease.
Bringing out the balloons caused quite a stir with making noise either by bursting the balloons or transforming them into noise makers as the air gets let out. To keep the noise going we made the Puppeteers Whistle. A few questions came up as to why we were using the match sticks and the paper in the whistle but were quickly answered by one of the boys in the workshop. The idea of something vibrating to make a sound was pretty familiar to them. Some of them modified the whistle to make a mair of tongs from the ice cream sticks.
To see what else could be done by using vibration we made the Pencil Spinner. However, by this time the children had become a little restless and it didnt work out for any of them. We did pass around a pre-made model though which they tried out enthusiastically.
I also demonstrated using newtons Cradle in the middle of the workshop which was exciting to most. they insisted on trying it out themselves and coming up with their own predictions. Again, a very open attitude to fiddling with the device.
This workshop did not run through the theme of trying to build a narrative with these toy. The dynamic was altogether different with the age group present. The workshop spanned over nearly two hours and the interest in the toys were retained nearly throughout.
Ironically, when i walked into the house the children were all gathered around the computer engaged in a "violent game" (as they put it) and were hapy to run back to it as soon as i was done with the workshop. Getting back to questioning the relevance of this system of using tactile materials, getting the children involved through self initiation etc.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
The aim of the workshop was to observe and judge:
The ease of with which children understand and make the toys.
Their ability to tell a story through the toy or to understand an underlying narrative through the session.
The level of involvement when it comes to making a toy themselves.
The value they hold in making something out of simple / junk materials and the excitement of actually playing with it.
The plan for the workshop:
Begin with origami and making a character (an origami crow). Everyone makes themselves a paper pet!
Making a bunch of paper fish. The pet is to be fed!
A game to see who catches the maximum number of fish in their crows beak. Whos pet is the best fed!
Making a whistle with ice cream sticks, rubber bands, paper and match-sticks. Call your pet back to you!
Put the crow down to rest.
Relate the crows flight to a helicopter in the air. What makes the helicopter fly?
Make straw spinner. Helicopter propeller lets it fly.
Make another toy that spins - The Ball that spins on a bottle cap when air is blown through a straws connected to the bottle cap. Encourage children to save their straws and bottle caps and other such materials to play with well know toys (the ball) in newer ways.
Distribute paper and crayons and ask them to draw a picture of their favourite toy and write a three line story about it.
What actually happened in the workshop:
I began with the origami crow. However it seemed a little difficult to make for the children. Them doing origami entailed a lot of excitement because theyve tried their hand at basics of origami and are familiar with its potential. There was a lot of guessing and suggestions as we went through making the crow. However there was a lot of assistance required through the process of making it. The instructions were tough to follow but the children were quite comfortable using their hands. Some named their crow as they made it and others took it for a flight across the table making their crow caw at other crows!
We went on to making fish for which I kept some fish in the center of each table which I had made from before. The process for making the fish was really simple so most children figured it out by opening up the fish i had already made. Others made it and immediately started picking up the fish with the beaks of the crow. Time was already running short so I skipped the game of getting the children to see whose pet was the best fed.
The time was almost up so I decided to cut it short to the story ending at the children calling the crow with the whistle. I gave out the ice cream sticks and they immediately started making noise with the sticks and trying some guess-work on how it would work. The assembly of the whistle was simple but most needed a little help with putting it together because the rubber-bands would slip out from their fingers. By the end of it the class was in a bit of a chaos as the period had gotten over and some of the whistles weren't working right due to blowing on it the wrong way.
We ended by making a paper bag to put the new toys into. This was at their suggestion itself.
Insights and Planning further:
A slightly older age group needs to be addressed in the workshops.
There is personal attention required to help make these toys. Almost a helper to every three to five children.
Pulling the children away from playing with the toys in the end to draw out and write a story about their favourite toy may not be possible.
Simpler toys need to be looked at or only a small number of toys is possible at a time. The children seemed satisfied with the toys they made but were curious about the material they saw laid out for the other toys.
A possibility of getting the children to personalize their toys instead of writing stories about them. This may lead to character and scenario building for the toy.
A little more emphasis on some of the material being scrap material.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Organize workshop with schools : small groups - approximately 10 children, Standard 3 / 4 / 5.
Organize smaller workshops with a mix of children at building societies / Extra-curricular activity class time.
Organize a workshop at a venue on a particular date and have children within the age group come in and attend.
1. Ice Breaker (only for workshop where the children are not familiar with each other) - Find your Science Pair (ex: Newton and his Apple)
2. Fun introduction to making and playing with toys - Making an origami crow which can hold things in its beak. Making two fish each and putting them together in a larger "pool". Whoever catches the most number of fish with the crows beak in a minute wins.
3. Making a bunch of toys along with the facilitator - A tentative list of toys for this is :
Ball in the Air
Three Blade Fan
A couple of these toys will be provided as a kit to take home and make at the end of the workshop.
4. Telling a story about your favourite toy - The children will be given paper and crayons and asked to draw a picture of and write a short story about their favourite toy.
Monday, August 2, 2010
I’ve been trying to construct a narrative surrounding the toys. I feel the need to clarify the nature of the narrative as well as the actual reason for choosing this medium before I begin.
The toys are constructed through the instruction graphics provided. However there is no follow up. The website essentially teaches the child to make the toy but doesn’t provide a platform for the toy to be played with after that. The workshops could work as a platform where the child is encouraged to experiment with the toy after it is constructed thus inculcating a sense of scientific thinking.
The narrative is to provide an environment / context / situation / use / character for the toy.
The form of a narrative comes from the way in which certain activities are carried out for children (example: music classes for children (Kodaly classes) include giving each one a character as well as a musical function and the learning of basic principles happens through interaction relating to the characters and functions) or the way in which children with special needs are taught some basic concepts (example: through games / relating to their everyday lives etc.)
Related environments (the environment built around one toy relating to that of another) – (ref: Where in the World is Waldo)
Building of one toy leading to or requiring the building of another
Overarching story / undercurrent of theme
Where in the World is Waldo
An important thing to keep in mind :
Using the workshops not as an observation platform but using exactly what happens in the workshops to create the product. Picking up observations, feelings,insights and implications from the workshops and translating them into the product. The interaction (facilitator and group of children) of the workshop translates into the person-product interaction.