children · education · learning · neuroscience · play

Beau Lotto + Amy O’Toole: Science is for everyone, kids included | Talk Video | TED.com

What do science and play have in common? A lot. I would argue that science and play are cut from the same cloth. And so does Beau Lotto.

Neuroscientist Beau Lotto thinks all people (kids included) should participate in science and, through the process of discovery, change perceptions. He’s seconded by 12-year-old Amy O’Toole, who, along with 25 of her classmates, published the first peer-reviewed article by schoolchildren, about the Blackawton bees project. It starts: “Once upon a time … ”

http://www.ted.com/talks/beau_lotto_amy_o_toole_science_is_for_everyone_kids_included#

watch via Beau Lotto + Amy O’Toole: Science is for everyone, kids included | Talk Video | TED.com.

behavior · brain · children · creativity · mental health · play

Letting imagination win – The Washington Post

I am definitely competitive by nature, as well as a game-rule follower, but I also appreciate and value the ability to think beyond the rules and explore “what if?” That is essence is the entire definition of play, questioning, what else can this be used for. It helps brains grow and is also the spark behind science, art, math, and all the other great discoveries. It’s nice to see that other people also understand and appreciate that need to explore and ask “what else does this do?”.

At 8 and 6 years old, my daughter and oldest son prefer to pick out the pawns from board games and use these figures for imaginary role-play rather than play the games themselves. This drives my mother crazy, and not just because the kids also use her antique water bird decoys as super villains.

“Aren’t they a little old for this?” my mother asks, exasperated and reaching under the couch to capture roving tokens from Clue and Monopoly, setting the games back in their proper boxes “for the umpteenth time today!”

The truth is that my children are not too old for it at all. Nor are they too old for those evening song and dance numbers in which anyone over the age of 21 is required to sit in a row, sweaty thigh to sweaty thigh, while the children put on a variety show after little to no rehearsal.

read the entire article at Letting imagination win – The Washington Post.

happiness · health · play

Playing with smoke rings, air rings, bubble rings…

Courtesy of Krulwich Wonders: multiple species will make their own games and toys out of thin air, literally, using a variety of different tools:

Humans do it with smoke.

A human blowing smoke rings.

Dolphins do it with air.

A beluga blowing rings.

With a little snort, dolphins can produce a nearly perfect "air" rings, (sophisticated non-dolphins called them toroidal vortices) which they turn into underwater toys.

While humans and dolphins obviously play with rings, it’s possible humpback whales do this too. The video shows humpbacks sending air rings to the ocean surface, but in one of them, the giant underwater author suddenly pops up mid-ring to take what looks like a bow in front of a boat of whale-watchers.

More…

behavior · brain · creativity · environment

How Acting Like a Scientist Can Help You Play

playing in the woods and acting like a scientist look pretty similar
I heard this story on NPR recently, and I think it’s the best advice I’ve heard in awhile on how to get out in the woods and explore, relax, and as they say in the article, take time to smell the roses! The answer: make an exploratory game out of it. “Pretend” to be a naturalist. Yes!

In this permanent state of hyperventilation, the issue for us all is not stopping to smell roses. It’s not even noticing that there are roses right there in front of us. Joseph Campbell, the great scholar of religion, hit the core of our problem when he wrote, “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.”

But how can we experience “being alive” in the midst of the crushing urgencies that make up modern life?

Well, it might seem strange, but one answer to that question is “science,” at least science with a lowercase “s.” Science, you see, is all about noticing. This is where it begins, with simple act of catching seeing the smallest detail as an opening to a wider world of wonder and awe. And here is the good news. You don’t need a particle accelerator or well-equipped genetics lab in your basement to practice noticing (that would be science with a capital “S”).

You already are a scientist. You have been since you were a kid playing with water in the tub, or screwing around in the backyard with dirt and sticks and stuff.

If you want to rebuild your inner-scientist-noticing-skills, the best place to begin is with a walk in the woods.

There are lots of reasons to take a walk in the woods. To get away from it all, clear your head, smell the fresh air. The problem, of course, is that even if we get ourselves into a park or a forest, we might still be so lost in our heads that we miss what’s right in front of us. Practicing noticing, like a scientist, can change that by binding us to experience in ways that are thrilling, even in their ordinariness.

Noticing can take many forms. One trick is to count things. Scientists love to count stuff. How many trees are there on the sides of a steep hill compared with its crest? How many leaves are there on the stalks of the blue flowers compared to the yellow ones? How many different kinds of birdsong do you hear when you stop and listen, (by the way, this requires really stopping and really listening, which is awesome). Counting things forces you to pay attention to subtleties in the landscape, the plants, the critters.

Other things scientists love: shapes, colors, patterns. Do the rocks at the stream’s edge look different from the ones near the trail? Do the big cattails have the same color as the small ones? Get your naturalist on and bring a notebook. Pretend you are or John Muir. Jot down your findings, make little drawings and always, always ask your yourself those basic questions: why, how, when?

Read the full article.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but scientists are all about creativity and exploration, and noticing things outside of the ordinary, so acting like a scientist is great way to see the world in a whole new way by playing with things, seeing what happens when you mess with something. Kids are natural players/explorers/scientists, so you can even bring one along as it might be helpful to get you in the explorer mode.

I would also argue that it doesn’t have to be “the woods” necessarily to get the same playful/exploratory benefits, it can also be short walks around the block, whatever works to get your observational juices flowing.

creativity · design · learning · play · Social

Making stuff at Science Gallery

Makeshop
Picture from Science Gallery’s Makeshop. (Photo credit: David Ramalho)

I used to write about Science Gallery in Dublin, Ireland, a lot on my now defunct blog The Art of Science. They have now been open for a couple of years, and are huge proponents of hands-on science, art, and learning. This week they’re debuting their new MAKESHOP.

MAKESHOP is a new collaborative workshop space where you can learn everything from cross-stitching to DIY robotics, from origami to 3D printing. It’s for everyone from novices to advanced makers, the only thing you need to get involved is a curious mind and a yearning to make stuff.

We’ll be running these free, drop-in workshops over the weekend to celebrate the opening:

  • LED throwies – LED throwies were developed by the Grafitti Research lab at Eyebeam’s R&D OpenLab. LED throwies are a simple combination of a magnet, LEDs and some sticky tape and allow you to attach coloured lights to any (ferromagnetic) metal surface. They are called throwies because they can be thrown in clusters to attach to high up metal objects and structures for impressive colourful interventions in public space or simply to liven up your fridge door.
  • Paper Toys – The status of the paper toy lies somewhere between an art object, admired for it’s ultra cool design and a quirky DIY aesthetic. Choose from a range of templates in the form of flat 2D pattern that you can fold together and transform into awesome paper toys by some of the worlds best paper toy designers. Alternatively you can colour in your own blank template to give your paper toy a unique look.
  • Extract your DNA – Ever wonder what your made up of? In this simple extraction workshop you will be able to isolate your own DNA strands from your saliva and take home a sample to keep.
  • 8 bit Cross Stitch – Inspired by the simple grid layout of retro computer characters, 8 bit cross stitch combines old world craft with old school aesthetic. You’ll learn the basics of needle work and take home a starter kit that will get you well on your way to making a wonderful wearable.
  • Drawing Robots – Drawing Robots are autonomous drawing robots that people can make without any knowledge of electronics. Participants connect a battery pack to a weighted motor, some paper cups and magic markers and watch as the drawbots begin to draw incredible images by bouncing around on paper.
  • Read about more activities here.

What a great space to explore and play! The Science Gallery is one of the many reasons I’d love to visit Dublin someday. Science Gallery has lots of exhibits rotating in and out throughout the year, and a coffee shop to hang out at after your science-y/artistic adventures.

Have you ever been into the Science Gallery? What was it like? What about the one opening in London (see related articles below)? Share your experience in the comments below.

children · creativity · design · education · learning · Nature

Toys in space!

Toys are not only great for thinking outside the box with, they’re also great for thinking outside of our world! Two Canadian students recently sent a Lego man out to the edge of space:

Matthew Ho and Asad Muhammad used a weather balloon to carry a camera and a toy lego man high above the clouds.

(source: BBC News)

What the video here:

Image

children · technology

Robot love

A baby monkey in the U.K. gets a stuffed surrogate mom with a mechanical heart while her mom recovers from a c-section, so the little DeBrazza baby can lie against the toy and be comforted by her “mom’s” heartbeat. Awwww…..

Teams in Italy and the U.K. are currently developing a robot kid. This robot has been programmed to learn how to crawl, walk, an move, using the leading theories today of child development. The best part, the schematics on how to make the kid are open access, meaning ANYONE who has serious robotics training could potentially make and teach this robot kid. They hope this will speed the development of the robot, including developing nerves and sensing skin for the kiddo. My favorite part in the film clip (see link), is when the robot gets “falls asleep.”

children · education · school

How to Be an Explorer of the World: New book

This is EXACTLY what I’m talking about. In school, at work, yes, yes, yes!!! Go Keri Smith. I’m seriously thinking about writing her a thank you Christmas Card, or at least buying several copies of her book and giving it to all the parents I know.

How to be an explorer of the world

Uncategorized

Gene Expression’s take on Diamond vs. the Cultural Anthropologists

I’m not sure why this argument has flared up again, but both popular anthropology blogs Gene Expression and Savage Minds are talking about Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel, and some cultural anthropologists’ reaction to it. I say some, because while I agree with a lot of Gene Expression‘s post and what they have to say, I feel they over-generalize what “cultural anthropologists” think, feel, and say about the book and their philosophy and approach to the sciences in general. Or maybe I just live in a bubble where everyone uses the scientific method and can deal with messy or generalized answers. Probably the latter, from the feedback I’ve heard from others.

I hope the answer lies somewhere in the middle; that while there are many vocal cultural anthropologists that are completely relativist, there are others who are objective and don’t balk at information that doesn’t fit into their schema. Or maybe that’s just me and I’m in the wrong graduate program.