Tuesday, May 3, 2011

design squad nation

as a mom, i feel good about my commitment and attempts to instill a love of reading in my kids. we go to the library multiple times during the week, we own more books than we have shelf space for, and we have a variety of books on cd.

i do not feel good about my ability to develop a love of math, science and technology in my kids. my own interests lie heavily in the area of the liberal arts. how do i develop their interests in other areas?

with this in mind, i find myself thankful for a new show on pbs (and an accompanying website) called design squad nation.  this is what i have learned about this show:

design squad nation, produced by wgbh-tv, is a spin-off series of the award-winning design squad series, and its main goal is to get kids excited about engineering…which we know is so important, as american children are lagging behind other countries in subjects such as math and science. design squad nation co-hosts judy lee and adam vollmer travel across the country and around the world working side-by-side with kids making their dreams a reality.

design squad nation takes a kid’s passion, combines it with engineering, and shows how to create an array of engineering feats—a cake that is part delicious, part electronic, and part mad scientist for the cast party of young frankenstein: the musical; a pedal-powered bike organ; a human-powered flying machine, and more. wish you could help the world conserve water? have a dream of an invention that can improve someone’s life? design squad nation shows kids that if they can dream it, they can build it.
we received two kits in the mail from design squad nation to try out some of these ideas at home.  zoe was quite excited to tackle the given problem and try to come up with a good solution.

the first problem we had was called "pop fly."  using duct tape, paint stirrers, a ping-pong ball, a wooden block or spool and a 3 oz paper cup, our objective was to launch a ball high enough so that we could catch it.  zoe pretty quickly came up with the idea of a lever.  together we tried different combinations until we came up with one that accomplished the objective.

it was fun for us to have a project to work on together, something that would allow zoe to develop problem-solving skills as well thinking about things from a more scientific standpoint.  where was the best place to put the spool so that we could have the most effective lever.  how long should our lever be?  would length affect the height of our ball?

i also appreciated that the materials were all things that we could fairly easily collect, if we didn't already have them around the house.  i hate it when zoe wants to work on a project that requires a lot of materials we don't have.

this summer, as i try to come up with ways to keep my kids' brains engaged so they don't lose 90% of what they learned this past year, i would like to incorporate some of the projects from design squad nation into our weekly plans.  i want the kids to have the whole world of opportunities available to them when it comes to choosing their interests and, ultimately, their careers.  i feel like design squad nation can help me fill in some of the gaps that i have as a parent.

i received two project kits from design squad nation as a thank you for letting you know about this new show.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

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