community · creativity · culture · design · learning · technology

Electric Sky Art Camp hosts artists, hackers, and nature lovers alike

I promise these guys are not paying me to promote this event. It just sounded cool and I thought I would share with other art, nature, and science lovers.

tubular lamp hanging from tree

Electric Sky is an art and tech weekend campathon June 8-11th 2017, bringing together artists, technologists, designers, hackers, makers, and friends to collaboratively engage with the environment in new and exciting ways. Electric Sky is a cross between an artists’ retreat and a hackathon, where you’ll spend several days in the woods, on the river, in our outdoor creativity lab, making stuff with people like you. You may arrive with well-developed ideas and half-finished projects, or you may arrive with no idea what you want to do but are game to jump in on a collaborative project.

This is a community-oriented event, and there’s plenty of space for camping, with lots to do in the area. In addition, we will have workshops appropriate for kids, so they too may experience the joys of creating with technology in the woods.

If you are excited by the idea of creating an individual or collaborative project around our theme the Wondering Woods, we invite you to apply to be a supported participating artist or creative technologist, to receive free tickets and funds to support your project.

They are taking applications for projects until May 1. Hosted in Skykomish in Western Washington. Check out the event page to learn more.

health · learning · mental health · Social

How the cost of daycare and ineffective regulations are bad for businesses

Preface to anyone who has children in a corporate-owned daycare that could be encompassed in the below description: I in no way mean to critique you or your child-rearing decisions, I am criticizing the system that has built up around these behemoth corporations that are more interested in making money rather than caring for kids.

Kids play outside with a throwable computer
In Washington State, small in-home day-cares are getting pushed out of business.

The push for large corporate, academics-based daycare and preschools in the U.S. to monopolize the industry and childhood development practices has gone too far!

My daycare provider this month had to bump up her prices 150% due to new regulations passed by legislators that were pushed through by big daycare corporations; supported with the sole intention of driving smaller in-home daycares like my provider’s out of business.

This kind of “pay to play” legislation is not only unethical, this particular one is supporting a system of large, low-personalization, academics-driven style of daycare that is not only inappropriate for children but downright HARMFUL to their development. Eight-month-olds do not need to be studying the alphabet! They need to be playing blocks with their friends and learning colors and counting through unstructured play time, not forced circle time and flash cards!

It is better for children to have smaller groups of kids to play together, with regular, consistent caretakers that can provide personal touch and unstructured play time.

This kind of system is also a HUGE burden on working parents. This kind of price increase – $100’s of dollars in my daycare’s case – is unmanageable for so many working families, and the high prices of childcare means that it pushes hundreds of thousands of well-educated, highly motivated parents out of the workforce during their prime working years. In-home daycares are also more flexible on hours and more understanding if a parent is 5 minutes late with pick-up.

This is also incredibly anti-small business; my daycare provider is strongly considering retirement after this last batch of legislation and required price increases, not to mention potential loss of revenue due to parents pulling their kids out of her daycare because they can’t afford it. I can only imagine other daycare providers are struggling with the same dilemma.

I support paying higher prices for higher quality child care, but this price increase is purely due to new legislations, fees, and bureaucracy that can be absorbed by larger corporations but not smaller businesses. I support safety and regulations of childcare, but not to the point where businesses are required to feed children  only cow or soy milk (yes, that is a rule in Washington State).

If the government is really interested in creating a strong, resilient, competitive workforce, AND/OR is really interested in supporting small businesses, this is NOT the way to do it!

As soon as I figure out which congress person to write to I will do it and share it here! If there is specific regulations you are aware of that are impacting costs or food options, or even play time, please comment and post them below, so when we write our emails, postcards, or angry YouTube video rants we’ll know exactly which regulations to call out as unjust.

In the meantime, please give your daycare provider a hug, no matter who they are, and let them know we care.

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March Mammal Madness 2017: School Science Classes Watch Their Brackets | NPR

This. Is. Awesome! Students are tapping into the playful aspects of science and learning.

This is March Mammal Madness. It’s a competition that has been playing out online and in hundreds of classrooms over the past month. Real animals wage fictional battles, while students use science — a lot of it — to try to predict the winner.March Mammal Madness was created five years ago by Katie Hinde, an evolutionary biologist at Arizona State University, though now, she says, the competition depends on a whole team of volunteer scientists and conservationists: biologists, animal behaviorists, paleoanthropologists, marine biologists.Hinde’s team meets every year for a Selection Sunday of its own. Team members pick the animals that will compete and even decide who will win, though they keep it a secret. That’s because a whole lot of research has to be done.Each scientist is assigned a specific battle, then studies up and writes a battle story based on facts.

“Then the battles are live-tweeted as a dynamic, play-by-play story, much like someone would watch a basketball game,” Hinde says.

Those tweets link to scientific articles, videos, photos, fossil records — whatever the team can use to drop knowledge into the story. That’s why so many teachers, including Michelle Harris, have begun using the brackets in class.

Playing with ideas is the whole point of learning! This is absolutely something I’ve seen PhD’s do sitting around having a pint together, chatting about animal life and death scenarios. It pulls on so many skills – critical thinking, learning and retaining knowledge about science, creativity, telling a story, collaboration, and more, all under the guise of play!

My money is on the slow loris. 😉

Source: March Mammal Madness 2017: School Science Classes Watch Their Brackets : NPR Ed : NPR

behavior · emotion · mental health · Nature · psychology

Trees are like friends

My husband recently posted an ode to one of his favorite trees that sadly caught a root fungus and finally died after 4 years and was cut down slowly this winter.

He was not the only one moved by the loss of the tree. Neighbors of the park, visitors, and other movers also expressed their sadness over the loss of the tree.

It seems strange at first of mourning a tree, but this phenomenon of bonding with and becoming fond of a tree, or multiple trees, is very common, and very human. Trees provide humans food, shelter from the elements, landmarks during travel, and safety from (most) animals. But they also provide us a level of consistency and reliability in our world – that tree doesn’t go anywhere – while also marking the changing of the seasons and change over time. It provides enjoyment whether you are climbing the tree or just resting at its base. Being in or near nature, even a single tree, has profound, positive effects on our physical and mental states.

In Melbourne, Australia, a few years ago people started using the park system’s email alert system to express their fondness for some of their favorite trees.

At my daughter’s  outdoor preschool the kids have slowly been naming the trees in the park during their daily hikes – grandfather tree, silly tree, spaceship tree, and others. These names help the kids orient where they are in the park, but they also represent a kinship with the tree, a familiarity and reliability that provides consistency and joy for the kids.

When a tree dies or is cut down, we feel its loss and we mourn. It is only human.

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Eight new installations now on display in South Lake Union

Great opportunity to engage with local artists for free in an accessible way.

Storefronts

Shunpike proudly presents eight new installations in South Lake Union as part of its acclaimed Storefronts program, on display until July 2017. Examining the exchanges between teachers and pupils, the collaboration between artist and nature, the origin of dragons, the installations span from an accumulation of marks, of ribbon miles, and unifying markers.



ARTIST: Amanda Manitach

WORK: Frances Farmer Defends Herself

LOCATION: Harrison Storefronts

Manitach_Harrison Storefront East_FrancesIn Manitach’s large-scale wallpaper drawings, text melts into vibrating, hallucinatory design sourced from a 1885 French wallpaper sample. The pieces harken to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In creating them, she invokes a similar physicality to the story’s protagonist, generating drawings up to 30 feet long made with a 0.5 mm mechanical pencil. The pieces are smudged, worn and covered with fingerprints where the artist’s body has been. “Frances Farmer Defends Herself” (graphite on paper, 52 x 360 inches) contains a quote by Seattle-born film…

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Announcing a new project to build the case for more child-friendly cities

This is a great research project, I look forward to following the research and the results.

Rethinking Childhood

What does it mean for a city to take child-friendliness seriously? What makes decision makers put real momentum and energy behind the vision of making the urban environment work better for children and young people? What does it take to move beyond fine words, small pilot projects and one-off participation events?

I am very pleased and honoured to announce that, thanks to a travelling fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, I will be visiting a half-a-dozen cities in Northern Europe and Canada to get under the skin of this topic. One key goal is to explore the relevance of child-friendly urban planning to urban policy in the UK.

The fellowship will take in four cities – Freiburg, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Vancouver – that have led the way in putting into practice the maxim of Bogotá mayor Enrique Peñalosa, that the child is an indicator species for cities. With these cities…

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Toybombing: Coffeeshop planter

Started my morning early at my favorite coffee shop. Left a buddy. #toybombing #seattle #dinosaur

Source: Beth Kelley on Instagram: “Started my morning early at my favorite coffee shop. Left a buddy. #toybombing #seattle #dinosaur #toybomb”

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This Is Your Brain On Walking. Any Questions?

A great meditation on walking from a good friend of mine.
My husband and I took our own short getaway this past weekend, and other than sit around reading books and drinking tea, we walked. We walked on quiet country roads, we walked along the tops of dykes, we walked a small portion of a small mountain.
We felt the different breezes blowing in our faces. We smelled the salty marshes of the flats where the ocean meets the farmlands the sea air blowing in off the Sound, and the cedars and firs on the mountain awakening from winter. We heard and saw various raptors, song birds, and water fowl co-mingling. And in just those few short miles we accumulated over the weekend, we felt more refreshed than we had in awhile. Even just a short walk in nature can do wonders.

camino times two

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I came across this story last week about Vancouver author John Izzo. A popular author, business speaker, and consultant, Izzo had a successful career writing and teaching about how to live and work better.

But he wasn’t happy.

So where did he go to rediscover himself? The Camino, of course.

“Izzo hiked in Spain for 29 days and found he was happier when he learned to surrender to circumstances, rather than hooking his happiness to outcomes.”

(Click here for the whole article)

(Sounds a lot like my Practice Acceptance mantra.)

Izzo isn’t pointing out something new. It’s been 2400 years since Hippocrates said “Walking is a man’s best medicine.”

Modern medicine still agrees:

Something as simple as walking to work makes you happier.

Committing to walking outside, in nature, has a host of physical benefits.

Walking specifically in nature, away from cities and traffic, has measurable effects on mental health. 

Something…

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How to Play-Fight with your Kids


After posting a blog about why I choose to play fight with my kids, I got a great response from parents and non-parents alike. What surprised me however was how many people – moms, uncles/aunts, non-kid affiliated adults – reached out to me and asked, “How do I even get started?”

It turns out a lot of people never play-fought as a kids…
They were told to never hit, never push, never poke.
Or they just never had a good example from their parents or older siblings or relatives.

Or as parents now, they have played with older kids but when they try to do the same thing with their little one she just cries and runs away.

That makes me so sad. There are so many benefits to play-fighting as a kid, and as a grown-up. Both my husband and I are huge advocates of physical play, including roughhousing. Play-fighting doesn’t have to be rough and tumble all the time either; there are some great games that involve the same elements as physical play but are more gentler on the body than traditional wrestling or punching games (pretending to be movable mannequins is one of my favorites).

Based on my research of studying physical play behaviors, and my own experience with my kids, not to mention observing my husband coach and facilitate grown-ups on how to play for the past 10+ years, here is what I’ve found to be good tips to get started:

Let the kids lead: Young animals of all species, including kids, are naturally the best players in the entire animal kingdom. It is how they learn about their world. So let them lead. You can come up with the game, but often times the kids already have a game in mind. Or, give them a gentle poke or push and see how they respond. Sometimes they might not be in the mood, but sometimes they will take your cue and run with it.
Anecdotally, I’ve noticed often girls will be done rough-playing sooner than boys or need more breaks, whereas little boys will often go and go until they start to cry, so don’t be surprised if either happens.

Match their strength…: When we see big dogs and little dogs play together, often the big dog will handicap themselves; they won’t push as hard, or they’ll get down on the ground so the little dog can actually reach them. Similarly, match your play partner’s strength. Push only has hard as they push, or hit only as hard as they hit.

…But show off yours too: Of course you can and should try doing lifts, carries, spins, gentle knock downs, and other things that require you to have more strength. That’s part of the fun of playing with someone bigger than you!

Let them win (sometimes): Similar to the dog play example above, if you want the game to keep going then make sure they’re having fun, which means letting them get a few punches in on you or knocking you down. (If you aren’t comfortable yet with falling down, think of this as a great way to practice slowly falling down in a safe way.) But that also means you get to win sometimes too; don’t be a punching bag, but it’s all about taking turns so you are both having fun.

Communicate: Check-in, see how they are doing. Ask if they want to switch up the game, or if you’re ready to switch it up or take a break, tell them. Which leads to…


Teach them no
: The whole joy of play-fighting is the give and the take (have I said this enough times yet?). When it’s not fun anymore, both you AND your child get to say no, stop, time out, or I’m done. At any time. And, as the grown-up, you also need to be able to read your play-partner’s cues and tell when they’re not having a good time, even if they’re not specifically saying no.

Tickling is a great example. A lot of people see ticking as “harmless fun” and it’s tricky when a little kid is laughing and saying no at the same time, but it can be quite scary for a kid (or a grown-up) if they mean no and it isn’t respected. But, it’s also a great way to build trust with your play partner, whether they are a kid or a grown-up. Now, I HATE being tickled! HATE it! No tickles ever, thank you! Ever since I was little. My mom has stories of her trying to tickle me as a tiny baby, and even so much as putting her fingers out to say “coochie coochie coo” and I would just freak out! And she listened. So no tickles. As a grown-up I have not always had partners that understood that tickling is not fun for me, or when to stop tickling (as in immediately). But thanks to my mom I knew that I could choose to say no and that needed to be respected.

The same goes for tickling your kid; if they say stop, even if they’re laughing, stop. If they want more, they will ask for it (kids are good at that sort of thing).
And this can be expanded to all kinds of physical play; we need to learn how to listen to our bodies and our limits. If we get scared or frustrated, we need to learn to take a step back and regroup, and that we’re safe to do so. Physical play with a safe person like your parents is a great place to practice that.

Have fun!: In the end, that’s what this is all about. Sometimes you’re not in the mood to wrestle, and sometimes you are, or maybe you’ve got knee pain and can’t get on the ground, so just go with what feels right in the moment. Make up stories (“we’re bears, rawr!”), give yourself challenges (you can’t move from one spot; you can only use one arm), and just see what happens.

There are lots of different fun games you can try out with your kids and prompt you both to play more. Here is a great example of kid-led play fighting:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqFJEQopKdY

I’d love to hear some of the games you have come up with with your little play partners, so share them in the comments below.

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Harnessing the Power of Nature to Improve Our Cities

Adding to my Reading List.

(yes, even the city codes. That might seem a little dry to non-landscape designers, but they are important to understand as far as how to work with cities to promote and integrate more greenery).

The Dirt

Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design / Island Press Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design / Island Press

People feel happier, healthier, and more social when they engage with nature. Their cognitive abilities go up and stress levels go down. So why is nature so often thought to be found only “out there” in the wilderness, or perhaps suburbia? For Timothy Beatley, a professor at the University of Virginia, nature should be found everywhere, but especially in cities. Cities must remain dense and walkable, but they can be unique, memorable places only when they merge with nature. If well planned and designed, a city’s forests, waterfronts, parks, gardens, and streets can make out-sized contributions to the health and well-being of everyone who lives there. In his latest excellent book, the Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design, Beatley brings together all the established science, the important case studies, the innovative code and design practices from around the…

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