diy.org is one of the best sites for keeping kids stimulated and engaged in the real world I’ve ever encountered. Beautifully designed and engineered, it breaks real-world maker skills into more than a hundred categories. When kids accomplish three tasks in a category, they get a virtual badge (you can purchase a real version of the badge for $5). This is the site I wish I had thought to build, dangit.
No idea what their monetization strategy is, but huge applause to the engineers and designers behind the project.
Miles (@Milezinator) is spending his Christmas break on a mad DIY badge quest (a blissful escape from Minecraft for us!).
We did it! Inspired by this Mashable series, and using this tutorial, I built a little rig for spinning burning steel wool today, then took it out to the local park with Amy and Miles after dinner. Amy shot the images while Miles and I took turns spinning. Not nearly as scary as I thought it would be, but we still wore a protective hoodie and goggles, and brought along a gallon of water just in case (none of it needed).
These are all 30-second exposures. The hardest part is getting the distance right – tough to know in advance how far away the subject needs to be, so the tops/sides of several of these are off. More practice needed. Would also like to figure out how to change the color of the sparks. Any chemists in the house?
Hosted 24 people (including kids) in our little house for Thanksgiving this year. Set up a GoPro in a corner of the room, set to take one shot every 30 seconds until the battery ran out. Stitched the stills together later at 7.5 fps for this quick glimpse. Too bad you can’t see the kid’s table off in the living room – that’s where half the fun was!
Earlier, raked up a big pile of leaves, predicting the kids would find it and dive in. Sure enough, they found their joy – dove in and showered themselves, me, and each other with a hundred thousand maple leaves.
So Miles was recently an “Urban Fairy” in his school’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The job of the fairies was to slip in at intervals and explain the more subtle plot points to the audience in contemporary language. With the raps still fresh in his head, we ended up video’ing all five of them in our back yard and in nearby woods on one of our hikes.
While hiking through pastures of cow patty last weekend, Miles and his friend started improvising this wonderful “Icky poo poo” song, and quickly found their own harmony. I just turned on Voice Recorder and held it above their heads as we walked. Sublime.
Just celebrated my 49th birthday in the High Sierras with family – absolutely packed and wonderful weekend. Walked a bit of the Pacific Crest Trail, where the trail meets Highway 88 (dad works as a volunteer trail hand at the outpost). Then to Devil’s Ladder, where gold rush pioneers had to disassemble wagons/gear and haul everything up a 3/4-mile rocky outcropping by hand (more than 100,000 wagons and their families went through this arduous, sometimes fatal ordeal). Then stopped at Sorenson’s in the Tahoe Valley to soak in the autumn colors of changing Aspens set against evergreens, and had lunch amidst a small flotilla of 80-yr-old hand-made cabins.
Finally to Taylor Creek to watch the Kokanee salmon push their way up the shallow stream to finally die just after spawning.
Next day, helped dad roll large pine sections up a hill, drill holes into their sides and insert eye bolts, and haul them uphill. After hauling, Dad and I created a huge pile of firewood from a bunch of them with his pneumatic splitter (truly one of human-kind’s most efficient labor-saving devices).
Good food, good company, amazing weather. Thanks all for a wonderful weekend.
So Miles just spent four days with his class at Live Power Community Farm in Covelo – camping out in 30-degree weather (at night), milking cows at the break of dawn, shoveling poop and plowing the earth and sorting vegetables. No electronics, no toys, no media – just kids experiencing life at its messy, organic best. During the breaks, they swam in the river and put on talent shows for each other. The kids worked hard but had a great time – all returned exhausted but recharged.
The farm gets its name from the fact they try, where possible, not to use powered machinery – everything is powered by animal and human effort. Blood, sweat and tears… and the rewards that come from that. Of course, everyone jokes about how it’s powered by child labor, but that’s not fair – the kids are there not as indentured servants but because their grownups see the work done on the farm as character building and healthy — everyone needs to spend time in and around real live dirt, and everyone needs to have milked a real live cow at least once in their lives.
I often lament that it seems to be so hard to provide kids with anything like the environment I (we) grew up in. The combination of our technology-heavy environment and the fact that kids don’t just “go play outside” anymore means something crucial is being lost. I do my best to get him out into nature as often as possible, but big picture, it’s a drop in the bucket. So grateful he was able to get a real taste of dirt this week.
He took a ton of photos on the trip, and I helped him to select a few of the best and create his first web slideshow – check it out.
Feel so blessed to have found a family activity we can all enjoy together. Spent the weekend in Santa Rosa with Amy and Miles, and rode the Piccolo route of the Levi’s GranFondo – a ride first through the rolling hills of Santa Rosa wine country and then out along the coastal cliffs. Since our son has just turned 11, we did the shortest ride (the Piccolo). It was definitely a challenge for him, but he applied all his willpower and muscle and made it the entire way – his longest ride yet. So proud of him!
Absolutely gorgeous countryside, with a solid 1-mile climb at the end that sapped every ounce of M’s strength. Recharged on watermelon, PBJs, and nuts, then the return voyage. I bolted the GoPro onto the handlebars and set it to capture one image every 60 seconds. So photos are not as “intentional” as they might be, but I did end up with a really nice random sampling. Unfortunately, I left the wifi feature enabled, which chewed up the battery. Camera went dead about halfway through, so you don’t get any of the high-speed downhill or the traipse over the Greenway toward the end – corn fields on one side and a babbling brook on the other.
One of the highlights of the day: Barreling down hill at 35mph into the 2nd half, guy whizzes past us yelling at the top of his lungs JESUS CHRIST I’M HAPPY!!!!
Over the past few months, my 10-yr-old son (now 11!) has been producing his own YouTube video podcast series. Nearly every morning before school, he’s in the office with a microphone and QuickTime’s Screen Capture feature, narrating a Minecraft how-to or walk-through sequence of some kind. He’s becoming a real pro.
Now that he’s developed a solid set of videos, he asked me for a bit of help promoting his channel. He’d love to have more subscribers, if you or your kids are into Minecraft. Here’s the channel link.
I much prefer his tips on creative build techniques, like the “Epic sandfall” embedded below. I’m not nearly as into the PvP mode game tours, but as long as it’s clean and non-violent, I’m OK with it.
Not the main road you’re used to, but the old / abandoned one that runs down near the water. Not exactly easy to access, but blissful once you do. Combination paved/unpaved (you’ll want a mountain bike), and extends the entire length of San Pablo Dam, around 4 miles each way.
Doing a father/son ride with Miles on his 11th birthday.