All posts by engagetheirminds

Girls Garage

I remember when we moved into our first house together, and my husband casually mentioned something about checking the pilot light on our heater.  For some reason, it had gone out, and I was scared to death he didn’t know what he was doing when he brought an open flame near the decrepit appliance sitting in our garage.  Fortunately, we didn’t blow up.  Sadly for him, that was not the end of my ignorance when it comes to home maintenance.

I’ve tried to make up for what I didn’t learn during my childhood – back when anything to do with tools was considered “the man’s job.”  Now it seems like I’m taking apart appliances, drilling something, or sawing almost every week and I play the ignorance card only when it’s a task that seems a bit gross (like changing out a toilet) or potentially life threatening (like fixing the roof).   In the last few years, I’ve attempted to get my daughter involved in these projects, but it hit me early this summer that she hasn’t learned nearly enough before she leaves for college.  I started hyperventilating as I began a mental list of all of the things she needs to has to know before August.

And then the Girls Garage book came out.

Girls Garage is a nonprofit organization that runs a physical space in California where girls learn to build.  Many of their projects are available here to download.  The new hardcover book includes twelve projects that range from building your own toolbox to erecting a stud-framed doghouse.

Also included in the book are simple descriptions of tools, as well as how-to lessons on measurement and handy life skills – like relighting a pilot light.  This would have been a super book for me to receive as a gift when I graduated, or even two years ago when I began to work in a maker space that was carpentry heaven.

To be honest, I’m kind of torn on whether or not I’m going to give this book to my daughter or just keep it for myself.  A family friend gave her a tool set for Christmas, so it does seem like a good gift to add to her pile of  Destination Dorm items.  I’m sure I can muddle along like I always have.  I mean, I already know most of the contents, like how to patch a hole in the wall (p. 226).

Just use toothpaste, right?

Girl with Hammer
Image by Виктория Бородинова from Pixabay

 

Are the Kids Alright?

The short answer is, “Probably not completely.”  I mean, let’s face it.  Is anyone really alright at the moment?  We’re trying to make the best of things, look at our blessings, and looking forward to watching Hamilton on Disney Plus in July.  But in our minds, we are oscillating between helplessness and outrage as the world burns down.

At the beginning of the lockdown, I asked students to collaborate on a COVID-19 Diary. It has been awhile since anyone has added to it, but you can see that, for the most part, student were trying to be light-hearted, but definitely missing the social aspects of being at school with friends.

You can see the same themes running through NPR’s “Postcards from the Shutdown” and the incredibly creative memes submitted by the students of Noa Daniels here.  Even though the children are finding unique, and sometimes humorous, ways to display their feelings, we’ve got to remember the toll that this must be taking on them – and us.  In this incredible video that she made for a school project, Liv McNeil gives what I believe to be a very accurate representation of what many people are experiencing today. (Here is a link to an interview with McNeil about her film.)

Just like most parents, I try to give my teenager some space while still letting her know that I care.  I feel like this is the time we all need to be particularly vigilant, though.  Masks worn to disguise depression are definitely not healthy – for anyone.

I am not a doctor and do not have any training in counseling or psychology.  I am including resources that I have curated over time to help those with depression and/or their friends, parents, and educators.  Please consult a licensed professional to help you if you or someone you care about is in a crisis.  

Bias

Today is Juneteenth.  155 years ago,  Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.  This was two years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.  Unfortunately, the slow delivery of this official notice was indicative of the years that followed.  Some Americans apparently still haven’t received the message.

As promised a few weeks ago, I am continuing to post weekly about anti-racism.  As I learn more about my own complicity in our nation’s reluctance to face the problems of bias and racism, I want to share resources that have helped me, as well as ones that can be used with students.

In the last month, I have read two great books that I received through the Next Big Idea Book Club.  These books arrived long before the recent protests, but they were perfectly relevant – which is a sad commentary on how far we haven’t come.  I would recommend these books to those of you who are interested in scientific evidence that explains why we continue to make the same mistakes in our culture.  The first is, Talking to Strangers, by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell uses multiple stories (including the death of Sandra Bland) and scientific investigations to explain how our misconceptions and inherent biases lead us to believe we can “read” people we don’t know when we really are making poor assumptions. Biased, by Jennifer Eberhardt, is an intriguing look at our neurological tendencies to stereotype.  Eberhardt, a professor of Psychology at Stanford, shares the results of several fascinating studies that reveal how our brains find it easy to embrace bias – and gives some suggestions for how we can overcome this.  (By the way, these book links are to “The Dock” independent bookstore in Ft. Worth, Texas, an African-American owned store, through Bookshop.org.)

While spending a lot of time reflecting about bias, including my own, I was going through the Anti-Racism Live Binder that Joy Kirr had kindly shared with me back when I first posted about my anger regarding George Floyd’s murder.  I found this post under the, “For IN Class” tab.  “Confronting Bias with Fifth Graders: Using the Draw-A-Scientist Experiment and the Covers of Picture Books To Help Students Recognize the Biases They Hold” is by Jessica Lifshitz.  There are several lessons and links to resources in this post that could definitely be used with students who are 10 and up.  I’ve used the “Draw-A-Scientist” lesson that is at the beginning of their journey, but I never took it to the level that Lifshitz did.  Teachers who are thinking about how to confront bias and racism in the classroom should definitely take a look at this post.

Happy Juneteenth.  I hope that, a year from now, we can celebrate some real positive changes in these areas.

Hands Together
Image by truthseeker08 from Pixabay

 

Girls Who Code At Home Activities

Girls Who Code at Home is the perfect way to keep your young programmer happily engaged while social distancing.   So far, I count 14 free activities that can be downloaded, and the site promises a new one will be added every Monday.  You can register to be notified each time the page is updated.

The activities range from beginner to intermediate/advanced.  Different programming languages are used.  Some are even “unplugged” activities, meaning that you do not need to use a computer to do them.  Also, although Girls Who Code is an organization that was formed to narrow the gender gap, these resources are available for anyone who wants to use them.

The downloadable worksheets include a lot of scaffolding, so don’t be worried if you and your child/student are new to coding.  From making a digital memory book to designing a simple chatbot, you are sure to find an activity that will appeal to your interest and skill level!

Children Using Technology
Image by April Bryant from Pixabay

The Social Distancing Puzzles

Yesterday’s post, which was about finding creative ways to make Zoom (or any online conference) calls fun, was a nice lead-in today’s shared activity. Eric Berlin, puzzlemaker extraordinaire, (see my Puzzlesnacks post for more info) came up with an ingenious idea that adds a twist to social distancing while earning money for charity.  When you use the form linked on this page to donate to Feeding America, and then provide a screen shot of your receipt, you will be e-mailed two sets of eleven puzzles in PDF form.  Choose a puzzle partner to give Set A or B to, and you will work on the other.  You can do some of the puzzles independently, and others will need collaboration.  The combination of puzzle answers from both sets will be needed to solve the final puzzle.

I haven’t done all of the puzzles, yet, but they look like they are probably suited for teenagers and up.  With your two sets of challenges comes a third file of hints and solutions.  For more information about Feeding America, you can visit this page on their website.  However, be sure to go to Eric Berlin’s page through this link so your donation will be correctly allocated.

Word Puzzle Grid
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

ZoomJam

In April of 2020, as much of the world had fallen under the pall of the pandemic, more and more people were resorting to Zoom video as a replacement for socializing in person.  A few organizations (not affiliated with Zoom) decided to organize a “#ZoomJam,” with the challenge to create innovative games that could be played in this new context.  You can read more about the organizers of #ZoomJam and its origins here.

The competition has ended (though you can still submit games), and you can see the top winners on the #ZoomJam home page.  For a full list of games, you can visit here.

Looking at the games with the lens of an educator, I can see many that could be adapted for teachers to use either as class bonding activities or for academics.  Some of the notable ideas that I could see using with students are: Aardvark, Dance-Off, Hot-Seat, Mute-iny, Night at the Museum, Split Decision, and Zoom Spot.  Of course, you may see many more opportunities on the list that I missed!

Put on a parent lens, friend or family member lens, and you may discover some other #ZoomJam games that you want to attempt – or maybe submit one of your own!

Video Conference
Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay