Tuesday, July 21, 2015

BioSim at the Boys and Girls Club of Ellettsville

A post by Alex Dailey and Sam Lorentz

A couple of weeks ago the Creativity Lab’s BioSim Project ran some preliminary testing at the Boys and Girls Club of Ellettsville. Our team used this time to critique our research methods.
The BioSim team spent four days with the kids at the Club.  They closely examined how the kids reacted to each part of the exercise. Over the four days the kids learned about how honey bees feed themselves by collecting nectar and making it into honey.  The kids then simulated this process with electronic bee puppets.  They took turns searching for flowers with the most nectar.  At first their nectar searching was random.  Each kid spent a lot of time searching through each flower to find the ones that had more nectar.  Many times the kids searched so long that their bees ran out of energy and died before they could make it back to the hive.  We began to teach them that bees communicate the location of nectar with each other.  At first we let the kids tell each other where to find the most nectar.  This time they collected more nectar and none of the bees ran out of energy.

Honey bees communicate by dancing.  The do a sort of waggle up the middle then either turn right or left and loop back.  By doing this they communicate to other honey bees the distance and direction of flower with a lot of nectar.

waggle-dance.jpg       https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/Bee_waggle_dance.png
The waggle dance: By doing their dance, honey bees communicate to each other the location of flowers with lots of nectar based on the angle between the sun, hive and flower.

We challenged the kids to create their own dances to tell each other where the flowers with the most nectar were.  At first the kids had trouble gathering their thoughts.  Some kids tried to make up dances as they went along and others didn’t know what dance their hive was doing from the beginning.  As time went on they learned that without a descriptive dance that everyone could understand, they weren’t effective at collecting nectar.
On the final day of our visit one girl took her bee dance to the next level.  She took it upon herself to teach the rest of her hive a dance that mimicked the one that the actual honeybees do.  She wiggled up the middle then looped back either on the left or right to signify the direction and distance of the flower with the most nectar.  As a result of her creative thinking her hive collected more nectar and won the competition.  

By the end of our time with the kids it seemed like they had grasped a strong understanding of the complex system of honey bees. The world is made up of complex systems, which makes it imperative that students learn to understand them.  Young kids are continually underestimated in their cognitive abilities yet they are able to understand the complex system of honey bees.  


We were pleased with how our preliminary testing went last week but we also discovered multiple things for us to improve upon.  Thanks to the Boys and Girls Club of Ellettsville, we are one step closer to a successful implementation.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Bookmarks and Puppets Come to Life at Public Library's Teen Space

This summer, Creativity Labs members Verily Tan, Naomi Thompson, Tony Phonethibsavads, Anna Keune, and Sophia Bender have offered two sewing-related workshops at the new teen space known as the Ground Floor at Bloomington, IN's public library. As part of the library's Summer Maker Days, we facilitated a Sew Your Own Bookmark Book-Light e-textile workshop on June 1 and an Intro to Sewing puppet-making workshop on July 6.

The Ground Floor is a very open-ended space where teens between the ages of 12 and 19 can come and hang out with their friends, mess around with craft supplies and digital tools, and geek out around their favorite stories, video games, or creative projects. The nature of the space is such that our workshops were open to anyone who wanted to drop in and make something.

At the e-textile workshop, we saw a range of skill levels, from those who had never sewn before to those who had attended our LilyPad workshops before. They were all highly engaged in sewing a LilyPad LED to a battery holder with conductive thread, and then decorating their felt bookmark. Some made light-up bows rather than bookmarks, and some took on the challenge of sewing two LEDs instead of just one!

At the Intro to Sewing workshop, we set up four sewing machines in the space and helped several teens to both hand-sew and machine-sew hand puppets. Most of the teens drew on their favorite media for inspiration on what kind of puppet to make. Everyone ended up using a sewing machine at least a little bit, and even those who had never used one before caught on quickly and ended up with highly successful and creative puppets!
Verily and Tony hard at work helping teen sewers with their puppets.

A teen works on sewing her corgi puppet.

A Swamp Monster-Frankenstein hybrid puppet

A shark puppet inspired by the monster Zamtrios from the Monster Hunter video game series

The Joker from Batman

A Dobby puppet (from Harry Potter) in progress

A puppet of the Pokémon Pikachu, waiting for his ears to be attached
As always, we were blown away by the great hands-on learning and creativity we saw at these workshops!

Thank you to teen librarians Kevin MacDowell and Becky Fyolek at the Ground Floor for inviting us and making this wonderful outpouring of teen creativity possible!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

World Children's Festival @ Washington, D.C. (Jul 1, 2015)

The World Children's Festival is an annual celebration of creativity, diversity and unity, with participants from all over the world. The theme on Jul 1 was Creativity and Imagination, and Creativity Labs hosted a LED Light-Up Bookmark activity at one of the tents between 2-4pm. Sophia Bender, Anthony Phonethibsavads and Verily Tan helped close to 70 participants sew the Light-Up Bookmark on felt material. This consisted of an LED, and a battery holder. When the positive and negative lines have been sewn with conductive thread, putting a 3V battery into the battery holder causes the LED to light up. Children were fascinated, and excitedly sewed the lines for their LED to light up! Some children decorated their bookmarks with beads, sequins and fabric markers.
The event was indeed an international encounter for the facilitators - we had participants from Poland, Germany, China, and Korea. There were also Americans from across the country. Many children came with their parents, or mentors - and they made bookmarks together. It was a lovely sight to see mothers guiding their children with the sewing, following the instruction sheet or receiving help from the facilitators. We invited parents to create their own bookmark, and in many cases, both parent and child left with Light Up Bookmarks!
The children who participated were between 5-15 years of age, and it was interesting working with them. There was a group of girls from Tennessee who were performing at the Festival. One by one, they brought their friends and guided each other in the sewing. We were inspired by some of the very young children who were determined to sew and complete the Bookmark - we supported them, sometimes holding the felt material for them as they manipulated the needle and thread.
Reflecting on the two hour activity, we love the creativity and diversity of the children, and the inter-generational making. This really was a celebration of creativity, diversity and unity!

One of the well-decorated bookmarks!

Mother and daughter from California: Smiling with success!

Students from Tennessee who participated and guided each other through the process

Siblings from South Korea: Happy with their bookmark!

Winners of the Art Olympiad (from Poland) sewing with their teacher

With special thanks to the International Child Art Foundation for this opportunity!