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.

community · creativity · culture · health · learning · play

M.O.B.I. Camp at Nine Mountain: A.K.A. My Reintroduction to Physical Play

A week ago I got to participate in a 7-day movement experience. Not a fitness camp or sports camp, or dance seminar or MMA workshop. Instead it was a collective gathering of 30 individuals with multiple movement backgrounds coming together to train, learn, and collaborate on understanding movement and how to push our bodies in a healthy way.

20160711_175615.jpg

This event was designed for professional movers – dancers, fighters, clowns, capoeiristas, tree climbers, traceurs, and more. But what I took away from this experience as essentially a non-mover with a 9-5 desk job was just how accessible movement really is for all of us. How it does not have to be a scary, grueling, sweaty, or complicated thing. It does not have to break your body, but instead can heal it. Movement is innately fun and enjoyable for humans, yet somehow we have forgotten that.

This week-long workshop brought together coaches from all movement backgrounds who had all come across the same question: why wasn’t their practice fun anymore? Why did they feel constrained, injured, or simply broken? All of them had gone on different journeys but had all come to the same conclusions of using movement as joy, as exploration, as celebration, as a way to communicate with others and the world.

Out in the hills of western Massachusetts, near the Deer Hill State Reservation, Kelly Bitov, Aaron Cantor, and Jared Williams organized the M.O.B.I. Camp – Movement Orientation and Body Intelligence.

In addition to Aaron Cantor, the coaches there included my husband Rafe Kelley, founder of Evolve Move Play; Shira Yaziv, owner of Athletic Playground; Nuria Bowart, and Tom Weksler. That said, almost everyone there were expert movers, dancers, musicians, and players, with some movement background and area of expertise.

This was truly a bit of an expedition into the unknown for me, not just in the location but what a non-mover like me would and could do.

Single-handing it with two toddlers, car seats in tow, we flew from Seattle, through Boston Logan Airport, and thanks to a generous M.O.B.I. Camp participant carpooling us 2.5 hours west, we arrived in the peaceful quiet of Nine Mountain Retreats.

For seven days we and about 30 other people made food as a community, explored movement as a community, and slept under one roof or nearby in tents.

20160713_154152

We would meet every morning at 8am on the deck and start moving, mostly outside, and basically not stop until bed. There were breaks in between workshops, but there was always some movement challenge or game to try in between class, helping with meals and clean-up, re-filling the water cooler, or in my case chasing the kids around, and chasing or carrying them up and down two flights of stairs.

20160711_151529

The one core element that I noticed about the entire week was how every single teacher, regardless of their background or emphasis, had one underlying criteria to their movement: PLAY!

20160714_133908
Tom Weksler and Mayumu Minakawa having fun in trees.

Each one of them had the same overarching instructions: Explore! Try this! Be open to new experiences! Don’t worry about looking wrong or silly, as long as your intention is real. We are all here doing this single practice together and trying new things together. Exploration is scary but necessary.

All of these teachers shared a similar story of evolution – they had trained deeply in one or two or more systems, and found each lacking, either missing something they craved or disallowing things for seemingly arbitrary reasons or worse breaking down their bodies and feeling worse after doing a movement practice that was supposed to make them feel better.

So often physical training and movement has been focused on goals – lift this much weight, run this fast, point your toes just so. By stripping all of that away – helped in large part by stripping away the gym or classroom and just being outside – people were invited to try new things, explore new paths, and mostly just remember that movement is supposed to be fun and enjoyable and a celebration of what our bodies can do.

For me, someone who is very goal oriented or achievement oriented, it can be hard to let go of that and just be a novice, especially when I am the “only” novice, surrounded by professional movers. There was even a time mid-week where I cried myself to sleep because I caught a glimpse of myself in a video looking totally awkward. BUT, I came back to class the next day, and for the first time I noticed other professional movers looking or feeling awkward in new types of movement they had never tried before. But they did it anyway! So I did it anyway. And we all felt better after the class for moving, for learning, and for getting outside and feeling the fresh air.

I honestly was nervous about having the kids there, as I didn’t want to interrupt the classes with my kids’ screaming and yelling and chasing balls and asking questions about trees. But in some ways their movement practice was just as genuine and valuable as what the coaches were teaching. I also heard feedback from some that having the kids there was also helpful to get out of their usual headspace and remind them to play and not take the whole process so seriously.

20160711_183915

My 3.5-year-old daughter became an honorary member of the group, with lots of adults chatting with her and wanting to dance and play with her. She and her 1.5-year-old brother also benefited from this experience immensely; my daughter only watched a few classes, and participated even less, but just by being around all of these movers and watching the adults play both kids absorbed all of this training and movement and acceptance of physical play like sponges.

20160711_133308

I caught them moving, jumping, dancing, and playing more than even at home; they also tried new tools like using the foam rollers and other apparatus people had brought with them, either copying what the grown-ups did or discovering other uses for them.

For me, the biggest take-away was just being accepting of where I am, not following a “system” or specific “method” but using these and thinking of these as tools. Taking what works and playing with them. Being inspired by the art of the possible, by the coaches and the students. That was the most amazing aspect of the week for me.

I sincerely hope they have another event next year. And I hope that other “non-movers” like me will give themselves a chance to go explore their own movement practices, and frankly to just go out and play and rediscover the joy of moving our bodies, no matter what silly, goofy, or wrong shape it makes.

20160716_105000

autism · behavior · brain · children · education · environment · learning · play · robotics · school

Beyond BB-8: How the Sphero is helping students with autism learn

So often we hear about technology disrupting play and stunting or being less effective than “traditional” types of education. Rarely do we see technology blending in with education and children’s play and really supporting child development and learning.

This is one exception.

A school in Australia that works with autistic kids has adopted several Sphero robots (like BB8 from Star Wars), and has incorporated Sphero into both indoor and outdoor play.

Not only is it robust enough to be taken outside and played with alongside building blocks, it can also be used to teach coding away from a basic screen. “For kids with autism … around 90% of the information processed is what they can see. They’re very visual learners,” he said.

It can also help kids feel more comfortable in the school environment. Smith explained how some young students, around six and seven years old, often find it stressful to leave their classroom and travel to other parts of the school.”Early on, we found that if we let them guide Sphero: ‘Let’s take Sphero for a little adventure around the school,’ they would actually, with no trouble, go into the assembly or sport hall if they had Sphero with them,” he said. “It’s almost like they were brave and overcame their anxieties for the sake of showing Sphero.”

Sphero is robust enough that it can be used for paint projects, or just exploring in the dirt.

Just like Christopher Robin and his Winnie the Pooh, being able to use a proxy like Sphero to help explore the world can be very powerful and enabling for kids of all abilities, but especially kids on the autism spectrum.

More at: Beyond BB-8: How the Sphero is helping students with autism learn

creativity · learning · play

Playing into old age: Meet the Graffiti Mamas

 

Play often involves some aspect of rebellion – doing things just slightly different than before, mixing things up.

That is very apparent in this interview with Luisa Cortesao from Portugal, who became a graffiti artist later in life and ran workshops for her peers.

architecture · learning

Radio Telescope Sculpture Turns Movement into Light and Sound | The Creators Project

Lumiere London 2016 is in full swing, bringing with it various light installations to enhance the city’s most famous locations. 30 artworks will be aglow this weekend at places like Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Carnaby Street, Oxford Circus, King’s Cross, and many others. At the latter, digital studio FIELD—founded by Marcus Wendt and Vera-Maria Glahn—present their stunning sculpture, Spectra-3. The piece is the latest instalment of their ongoing Spectra series, a merging of physical and virtual sculptures that take inspiration from space, technology, and our relationships to them, to provide elegant and sensory experiences using sound, light, and reflection.Spectra-3’s design and movement is inspired by the radio telescopes of the Very Large Array (VLA) located on the Plains of San Agustin in New Mexico. The piece combines computer-aided design with real-time input from the public’s movements, to inform its physical actions as it rotates on motors, augmenting the space with the enchanting hues and patterns of reflected light and spatialized sound.It’s the biggest self-commissioned artwork the studio have ever done. Built from bespoke steel and surrounded by sensors, at nearly 10′ tall, it’s controlled by custom software which commands the motors, lights, haze, and multi-channel sound.

Source: Radio Telescope Sculpture Turns Movement into Light and Sound | The Creators Project

behavior · children · learning · Nature · work

There Are Kids Fighting Fires In Washington State | KUOW News and Information

Crews of juvenile inmates have been sent to fight wildfires in Washington state since the 1960s.

Their mission: Make sandwiches, dig trenches and build fire lines to keep flames at bay. They can pull 16-hour shifts and earn between 70 cents and $1.60 an hour. The youngest are 15; the eldest, 20.

“The kids go to fires all over the state,” said David Griffith of the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration in Olympia. “It’s something they want to do.”

Source: There Are Kids Fighting Fires In Washington State | KUOW News and Information

When I first read this article I was shocked that they would send teenagers out to do this job. And then I realized what a great opportunity and program this was actually an amazing opportunity.

The teenagers get outside into nature, which has been shown to have a ridiculous amount of benefits around concentration, calming and serenity. It gets them exercising, which also has amazing physical and psychological benefits. They learn skills they can use as grown-ups, they learn to work as a team, they learn to take orders, and they are giving back to other people in need, like someone who’s house is in danger of being burned down.

This is not exactly play, but it is an applied real-world education, and while some commenters have been upset by the small amount of money they make, frankly I don’t think that matters, especially if we think of this program as an addition to the regular traditional education that they’d be receiving in public school or in correctional facilities. In fact I suspect if you offered this program to public high schools it would fill up in a matter of days.

There are also programs like this in California. With the scary fires and kid escaping this past month Washington is reevaluating whether to keep it going. I hope they continue this program and encourage similar programs for kids “in the system.”

behavior · design · learning · Nature · play

The Fantastical World of Fairy Houses | The Etsy Blog

It is in our nature to pick up interesting rocks, sticks, and leaves as part of our exploration of our surroundings. Some people bring their treasures home and display them on a fireplace mantle or little shadow box.

For a husband and wife team, they have been turning their little finds into fairy houses, which is another playful way of exploring their surroundings and getting to engage in make believe play as a grown up. They are also one of the lucky few people who get to sell their play creations. They were interviewed on the Etsy blog about their creations:

Etsy: When did you make your first fairy house? And had you ever heard of one before you made one?

Debbie: I grew up writing poetry and playing musical instruments and I had always loved doing different kinds of crafts like making dolls, handmade books and cards. But no, we’d never really heard of fairy houses before we started doing this 25 years ago. At the time, our sons had just started going to grade school, and when I found I had more time to myself, I was excited to use my creative talents again. The first project I tried was making a full-size Adirondack chair; when that didn’t work out, Mike suggested that I try making a miniature chair instead. I used some materials I had gathered from a couple of acres near my mom and dad’s place in Washington, and it was so much fun I kept doing it.

Mike: We have always loved nature. When we would go for hikes, Debbie was always picking up things she found, so we already had quite a collection of wild grasses and flowers. And Debbie’s mom was our biggest mentor. She always said, “You have so much talent. I wish you would use your talent.” She really encouraged us.

more via The Fantastical World of Fairy Houses | The Etsy Blog.

How wonderful that Debbie’s mom continued to encourage to play and explore with creating these miniatures.

Have you ever built little fairy houses when you go for a walk? Or seen someone else’s creation? Do you build with LEGOs or other miniatures? Or K’nex (Connector) Sets or Lincoln Logs or other building set? Do you wish you still did? Share in the comments below.

behavior · children · creativity · education · environment · learning · Nature

Loose Parts = Creativity. Road Trip to Lithuania Reminds a Teacher to Play

This is a great blog post from a teacher re-learning the value of creative free play and specifically outside.

I highly recommend you read the whole post, but for me this sentence summed up the whole experience:

“…As I witnessed these projects I realised that children and adults can only be as creative as their environment allows them to be and that by letting children spend time in a natural environment like the woods or to be surrounded by loose parts, we can but only help them to become or remain creative.”

‘Nuff said.

Read the entire post: Learning for Life: Loose Parts = Creativity. Road Trip to Lithuania Part 3.

behavior · children · creativity · learning · play

The Power of Play and Creative Playful Spaces

Three kids, now all high school graduates, dedicated their recesses to digging up a gigantic rock out of their elementary school yard. The principal decided to keep it and now future generations of kids are getting a chance to play with the “magical” rock.

The kids started working on the gift unwittingly. It was 10 years ago. They were in second grade and out on the playground during recess when one of them saw a little rock — or what looked like a little rock — sticking up out of the ground.

But year after year they returned to the project. Digging mostly with sticks and plastic spoons they got from the cafeteria, the kids dug down — through second grade, third grade, fourth grade and fifth grade — until finally, just before moving on to middle school, they finished.

The principal brought in heavy equipment to lift it out of the hole for them. That was 2008. Now the three are like rock stars around Kittredge, partly because of the accomplishment itself, but mostly for what the rock has become.

more, including the video, via How a rock on a school playground became “magical” – CBS News.

The kids now use the rock as a “neutral” zone, or a spot to hang out and wait for kids to come invite you to play, which as  a former kid I can tell you does indeed feel magical.

It is amazing the dedication that kids can show in play and exploration. They spent years! digging up this rock with improvised tools. An amazing lesson in perseverance, creativity, and teamwork.

Incredible props to the elementary school principal who let the kids dig up the yard to get to the rock, so many may have discouraged the behavior.