Sunday, October 24, 2010

...and then my mind was blown into a new hairdo

Pop!Tech. I had heard about this phenomenon in years past, had seen the cadre of smartphone-wielding hipsters dressed in black, had taken note of their glorious and fashionable shoes.
This is an annual conference that brings together great modern innovators, thinkers, and do-ers across various disciplines for three days of intense, mindblowing presentations.

Experts on marriage/family, neuroscientists, technology designed to reignite passion for nature through citizen science, education innovators, citizen activism to bring peace to inner cities, people who sail across the Pacific on a boat made of plastic bottles, using sewage to create bioplastic, and so much more.

The really crazy thing is that this event draws people from all over the world to the tiny little enclave of Camden, Maine, right in my own backyard. (read more here.)
This event is wildly out of my price-range but it's something that I am interested in because of my work with technology and libraries and teaching/learning. So I decided to volunteer my time this year and it was lots of hard work (10 hour days!) but also immensely rewarding.

screening room
My volunteer work began with a five hours or so of helping the creators of a Rube Goldberg machine with their elaborate set up. (Filling 500 balloons with a small LED light can actually give you blisters.) Watching their process of failure, tweaking, failure, tweaking, and sometimes success, was fascinating.

built by a high school team
hold on...
does this sign refer to our personal digital devices,
the ones in such abundance at Pop!Tech?

And only a few days later, when I saw my children again, I saw this same spirit reflected in their elaborate and creative set-up of blocks, marbles, trucks, and ramps...trial and error enacted in a matchbox car jump set-up.

An onsite artist was there to document the presentations while they progressed:
And as you can see, the theme of the 2010 conference was "Brilliant Accidents, Necessary Failures, and Improbably Breakthroughs." I love that line, above: Fail Faster Now!

pop!tech booty
So my days were very full and my brain was more full. The volunteer cadre was a great team to be on and it was a very dynamic atmosphere. So many ideas! So many people! Great people-watching! It was so easy to engage with people, and fun to be outgoing and welcoming with these interesting visitors to our town.
~thanks Pop!Tech~
I think I'm hooked.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Big City Adventure

s. drives the amphibious vehicle in the Charles River
Sometimes we get out of the wilds and into the city. Things like escalators and public transit are as exciting as museums and zoos. And oh, do the boys ever love the sidewalks at their Grandpa's and Mimi's house---Scootering is possible! It's the little things.
We did touristy things like go on a Duck Tour with our extended family, and our clever driver was Disco Dan. We crawled through Boston's notorious traffic, feeling oh-so smug that we were the most massive thing on the road amongst all the tiny little SUVs, and heard about some of the city's history. And then we crawled into the river. I got a good shot of Disco Dan's amazing platform shoes: a little pretend goldfish is in there! Love it.
And we visited the zoo. Which I am more than a little ambivalent about, philosophically. But it was a gorgeous fall day and we decided to go for it. Of course certain members of our party particularly enjoyed it when the gorillas vomited into their hands and then ate it. I preferred the colorful birds and the tiny pygmy falcons who were eating their lunch of bits of raw meat.
The lion was pretty impressive, in his fully relaxed snooze position, letting it all hang out, so to speak.
It was really the perfect time of day for a nap and I think the Grandpa was jealous.
Oh and no visit with our extended family would be complete without a little ubiquitous computing on handheld devices. It's so fascinating that someone could be born digital, but even when deprived of daily contact with media devices, could still be more proficient with handheld devices than many of his elders. Without the distractions of media in his daily life we are raising a voracious reader, artist, thespian, problem-solver, strategist, collaborator, and most especially, a boy who at almost-twelve who still knows the value of play.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Autumnal Bounty::2

more loveliness by Orange Iron Fabrications

Well the bounty keeps coming. And I'm not talking about the bounty that Jabba the Hutt placed on Han Solo's head, either. This time the bounty is from our school's recent Harvest Festival and Michaelmas celebration. The weather was sparkling and crisp and this year's festivities involved no caramel apples from hell.

beautiful harvest market offered by the 3rd grade
our 6th grade table of baked goods
But getting back to Star Wars, which we are always getting back to around here, there is some serious fanaticism around here. It goes way beyond the conversations about "if you could have one ship from any of the movies, which one would you choose" or "which character would you be" or "who would win in a fight if _________." (For the record, my answer to that final question is always Yoda and usually I am right.)
2nd grade's activity was sauerkraut-making
scary grater thing for shredding the cabbage

Jonas has a rather ridiculous memory for detail. And he knew more about the plots of all of the movies than we did, even before he had seen them (thank you, interlibrary loan) because he had read a bunch of comic books that covered the movies and then, even better, some of what happens between and before and after the movies. Now from a literacy standpoint, this is kind of cool, because even before seeing the movies he was building up some pretty interesting connections between the complex plot lines and time lines.

Yesterday afternoon, in the car, he was marveling that Chancellor Palpatine (hey, check me out I got the spelling right!) could have set himself up so well to become Supreme Chancellor by vote. This led into a discussion about politics in general. That to me, it wasn't so surprising because I imagine he had been hard at work forming alliances with the senators.
two kraut-pounders hard at work
Which then led to Jonas suggesting that really, what he would like is a block of study on Star Wars (blocks last 3-4 weeks, typically). I think he would have to teach it, frankly.

Me: And just imagine the parents' surprise to find pages of diagrams of various important ships, beautiful colored-pencil drawings of important characters, and essays on the relative merits of the tactics used by various rebel and empire forces, sandwiched between your lovely geometric constructions and geology drawings!

We had a good chuckle.

At one point during his monologue, when I was just murmuring my assent, he said "You couldn't care less about this, could you?" And I answered with honesty: "You're absolutely right. But I love hearing you talk about it and I love listening to your thought process."
May the Force be with you.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Autumnal Bounty::1

It's been ages since I have been here! Mostly it's the balance of school and work and kids that's getting me. But as you can see, we have been busy in the world. Look at all this color!

silks for sale!
needle-felted doll, hand-painted masks, felt crowns, handmade buttons!
Jonas and his friends had a successful business venture at the Common Ground Country Fair, selling their wares at the Youth Enterprise Zone, which you read about here. There was a lot of group process, mostly by the kids themselves, as they worked out details of the display table, how to keep track of inventory, how to price, etc.

notebooks and pouches
made from recycled plastic shopping bags!
And they did it so gracefully and collaboratively. They made change for customers, worked in shifts, and lowered prices when the afternoon rolled around.
oh! the needle-felted owl!
costumes, aprons, tunics!
beautiful wooden swords!
I don't know why I was surprised that when I looked at their table of wares, it was all stuff that the children have grown up playing with, the essential play things: dress-up, play silks, and wooden swords. It was lovely to see them create such beautiful things that have so much play value.

And in other news, our winged friend hatched and took flight. I, of course, was worried for him/her because the hatching preceded a week of very windy and rainy weather and a low pressure weather pattern. But within a couple of days, this small creature took flight.
Who am I to doubt nature?!
Isn't it fascinating to see what was left behind? This one's for you, Carrie.
Finally, check out my new hair accessories from Orange Iron Fabrications, aka my friend Kate. They made me happy all day long yesterday. So fun and her colors are amazing. Just visit the etsy site if you need a little color therapy, come winter. (Or better yet, you could buy something and bring that color home!)