design-thinking-during-halloween

How to apply the principals of Design Thinking during Halloween?

Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding from this post– I LOVE THE SUMMER, but we are now technically in Fall, which is a fantastic time of the year. While Apple picking is probably high on the agenda, most of the conversations with family friends seem to center on that all important question – What are you going to be for Halloween? 

Last year our goal was to ‘make’ the costumes as opposed to ‘buying’ them, and I wrote an article about the need for time – time to incubate ideas, time to plan, time to gather the material, and finally time to prototype (when you’re trying out ideas to see if they work, you’re prototyping).

SEE ALSO: Introducing some of the principals Design Thinking to young children

I advocate for the making of costumes, because it provides an opportunity to involve the family in a design process that engages our creative thinking and problem solving skills.

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Design Thinking is the name of a specific problem-solving methodology that has been made popular by design firms such as IDEO, but many of it’s principals can be found in most problem solving methods that require practitioners to navigate toward a creative outcome. Below is how parents can apply some of the principals of Design Thinking during Halloween.

STAGE ONE: Clarifying the Problem: What are we going to be?

The first stage of the process begins with clarifying the problem. Ultimately, this is where you have to work with your little ones to identify what costumes you need to make? During this stage you will no doubt welcome the whacky ideas that naturally manifest, and eventually settle for something in the middle (unless of course, your field of expertise is costume design). A few years ago Lucas was intent on being a fire breathing, robot skeleton dinosaur, but over time he opted for a Peter Pan theme, which was more inclusive for the family.

Design Thinking During Halloween 2013
Halloween Costume 2013: My wife deserves all the credit. She researched the idea of a plane and made it. We noticed Lucas had difficulty climbing stairs and turning around in tight corners, but it certainly got all the attention from fellow parents! A little more prototyping perhaps!

STAGE TWO: Ideating: How to I make the costume?

This is the stage where you need to go out an explore ideas on how to make your costume. Pinterest is a place where all the creative parents hang out, so I highly encourage you to explore this as part of your research, but a quick Google image search is also great place to start.  I encourage you to identify a few different options, as you’ll likely benefit from taking a little bit from here, and a little bit from there, in order to make the perfect costume.

Design Thinking During Halloween 2014
Halloween Costume 2014: Characters from Never Never Land, Last year we had to creatively steer Lucas away from a fire breathing skelton dinosaur, and to a more family friendly, and doable in short-time frame option. I was a Lost Boy – can’t you tell? I rolled on the grass to get the grass stains!

STAGE THREE: Prototyping: Does it work? In other words can they actually wear it?

This is where you get the little ones to try on your invention (or perhaps even better the collaborative invention). Ask them how it feels? Does it need any adjustments? You can also have them make observations, and offer suggestions for improvements. Each improvement is called an iteration, and there might even be a need to scrap the idea and start all over again – but of course time is probably playing against you during this stage of the process.

Design Thinking During Halloween 2015
Halloween Costume 2015: This year Lucas wanted to be a Wild Kratt, with frog powers. I was determined to practice what I preach and design this costume for him, but toward the end he opted for an Indian theme, thanks to a short lived obsession with Pocahontas. Mommy of course assumed the lead role, while Daddy made an attempt to replicate the character of John Smith, from the Disney movie.

Time is always a factor, so perhaps you alternate years of making and buying costumes. Whatever you do, just be sure to start thinking early, involve your little ones in the process, and most of all don’t forget to take those pictures!


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Using Video Games to Teach Children to Fail

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
– Thomas A. Edison

We’ve all probably made the connection on how important it is to fail. I recently read the book, Creativity Inc, written by Ed Catmull, and Amy Wallace. The book charts the rise of Pixar, specifically detailing their process of Creativity and success. One of the things that Ed Catmull, highlights throughout the book, is the importance in learning to ‘Fail Early, and Fail Fast’.

My boys increased interest in the iPad, has come about thanks to his discovery of Minecraft (going beyond YouTube Kids). Minecraft is a great game for Creativity, as it's sole goal is to create and make.
My boys increased interest in the iPad, has come about thanks to his discovery of Minecraft (going beyond YouTube Kids). Minecraft is a great game for Creativity, as it’s sole goal is to create and make.

As adults, I’m sure we all recognize that when we start something new, it’s probably going to take a few attempts before we get it right, particularly if the activity requires a set of skills that must be developed or learnt along the way. However, teaching this concept to a child can be difficult, particularly to the ones that are impatient and want to succeed on their first attempt. How do you explain to a five year old that they’re going to fail at first, and however upset they might become, they should keep trying (and keep failing) so that they can get better – they want to win, and WIN NOW!

See Also: Creativity Chit-Chat: A Parents Quick Guide to Creativity at Home

I’m not going to take a really deep dive into my feelings toward failure, and how students in our current system of schooling are not always given adequate opportunities to fail – neither am I going to talk too much about how we as parents, in our desire to ‘help’ our little ones along the way, often remove the opportunities for them to fail, because we want to see them constantly succeed. Instead, I’m going to talk about a mobile game called Mr. Jump.

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I think this is probably the first time that I’ve actually written about a mobile game, and that’s because I don’t find the time to play them often. However, my eldest has finally begun showing a greater interest in the iPad, and recently requested that I download Mr. Jump, after spending a day with his cousins.

Given his enthusiasm, I immediately made the purchase from the App Store, and we began playing. Oh my days – it was hard, and of course it immediately provoked annoying temper tantrums that made me want to delete the game immediately. But, then I realized that we can use video games to teach children to fail. One of the things that I noticed immediately about Mr. Jump, was that instead of losing a life after dying (failing), the screen displays the percentage of the level that the player has completed. This was fantastic, because it allowed me to show Lucas that he was making progress. As opposed to focusing on getting to the end of the level without dying, we were able to set goals, and the game assisted us with our goal setting by providing a line to indicate our best attempt. At first we just tried to get into the teens, then the twenties, and finally thirties. Each time we reached a new high I took the time to celebrate the success, and slowly the goal of our game shifted to beating our previous number, as opposed to getting to the end of the level (which is really hard!).

Mr. Jump, displays the percentage of the level completed. Allowing players to see their progress, and thus improvement.
Mr. Jump, displays the percentage of the level completed. Allowing players to see their progress, and thus improvement. It’s a minor detail that for me, has made all the difference.

In-between our attempts, we discussed the concept of failure, and I used our progress as an example to how we get better, and learn after each attempt. We even began to singing one of the verses from Zootopia after obtaining a new high number

‘Birds don’t just fly, they fall down and get up’ 

Slowly, but surely, Lucas was discovering that it’s ok to fail, so long as he picks himself back up, and tries again.

On writing this article, I find myself thinking this is an obvious thing to discover. After all, digital games are designed to give their players the opportunity to fail. It’s how players learn, and develop the necessary skills to overcome future challenges. I think this is referred to as ‘Game Flow’ within game theory classes.

Anyway, I’m going to take this experience into teaching Lucas, how to ride his bike – wish me luck on that one! If you haven’t see it, here’s the Zootopia song.

PS. The game’s great. I’ve been sneaking off to play it myself. Just got to level two yesterday!


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Establish a Culture of Excitement at the Start of School

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This year, establish a culture of excitement about the start of school.

So much of our culture is focused around lamenting school. Television advertisements celebrate the liberation of parents based on the start of the school year. Children are taught to dread Mondays and love Fridays. I agree that back-to-school is the most wonderful time of the year, but not because I finally get rid of my kids:

See Also: 7 Ways to Cultivate Creativity at Home

School is an opportunity for our children to work collaboratively to solve problems, engage with challenging ideas and information and question all the things they believe they (and their teachers) know.

Anna's kidsKids sometimes have a natural aversion to challenges, especially if they are not taught a skill set of how to approach a difficult, new situation. They like to feel comfortable and feel in charge. Newness can be disconcerting for all of us. Before school starts this year, try asking your child about what he is anticipating at the start of school. If you sense some anxiety, ask your child what she is worried about and then turn that concern in to an opportunity. Children are yearning to be taught and open to new ideas and new approaches.

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Stay positive and help your child to be positive through his mindset and approach to novel situations.

There is a lot of buzz around the concept of student engagement, but we—parents and teachers, alike—can’t simply require that our children be engaged. Like any other skill, our students have to be taught how to engage with the material and situations they are presented.

Celebrate the wonderful opportunities school brings with and for your children, and they are bound to be positive, engaged and excited about the 1st day of school, and all of the days thereafter.


Article By Ms. Anna Mahon

Anna Mahon is entering her 2nd year as Principal of Amity Regional High school. She has been a member of the ARHS since 2000 as English teacher, English Department Chair and Associate Principal.  She is a former elite-level athlete in Track and field and former national champion and 2004 Olympic Hammer Thrower. She is the mother of two elementary school children and comes from a family of educators, including her husband, mother and parent-in-law.


CE_FREEMOVIEV3FREE FILM on Creativity in Education

Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance, is a documentary film that explores Creativity in education. The film is available on Amazon or can be access for free by simply commenting below or subscribing here.

 

 

 

7_Ways_to_Cultivate_Creativity_for_ParentsFREE BOOK on Cultivating Creativity

7 Ways to Cultivate Creativity is a FREE eBook for parents who want are looking for ideas on how to cultivate creative thinking skills at home. Subscribe here to download the book.

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Imagination is more important than knowledge

Let your child Daydream: Imagination is more important than Knowledge

Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

My co-conspirator to DadsforCreativity.com, shared an absolutely awesome New York Times article last week. This October marked 100 years since Einstein came up with the General Theory of Relativity, which is something I barely understand and will not try and explain during this post. What I found most fascinating about the story is how Einstein utilized his imagination to generate his world changing theory about our universe (for those of you not familiar with the story, Einstein imagined he was riding a beam of light through space and this experience is what led him down the path to the General Theory of Relativity).

See Also: What if your child’s Imagination could Soar!

As pointed out in the NY Times article titled The Light-Beam Rider, Einstein ‘relished what he called the Gedankenexperimente’, this was his word for experiments and thoughts that he played out in his head. While none of us will likely claim to have the mind of arguably the greatest scientist of the Twentieth Century, we might still have some type of ‘crazy’ question or theory that we Gedankenexperimente with.

At the weekend my eldest found a rainbow in our house. I can only imagine what type of thoughts and questions were shooting through his mind as he wiggled his fingers in the different rays of color.
At the weekend my eldest found a rainbow in our house. I can only imagine what type of thoughts and questions were shooting through his mind as he wiggled his fingers in the different rays of color.

One of mine first began to manifest during my car journeys to Darbyshire to see my Mom’s family. As we sped up or down the M1 at around 70MPH, I would look out the window at all the objects that zoomed past our window. I used to try and make them go slower by fixing my gaze on an object in front, such as a road sign, and then following it as we passed by. I noticed that if I concentrated hard enough I could make the object almost stop in front of my window for a brief moment, before it disappeared behind me. As I played this game a question began to emerge – what would happen if a wasp entered the car and hovered in a stationary position just above my head? Would it zoom back at the same speed as the outside objects such as the road sign, and thus smash and splatter against our back window? Or would it occupy the same space as our car? While I suspected it was the latter, this only generated more questions – what exactly takes place between the wasp hovering 1mm outside my window and zooming by at 70mph, verses being 1mm inside my window and not?

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I reckon this question might easily be answered by a 12th grade physics teacher, and embarrassingly for me, perhaps it’s common knowledge to everyone, but this is the first time I’ve ever shared this question publicly and I still do not have a solution or more importantly WHY! (Hint Hint – comment below if you know the answer!).

As we think about cultivating creative thinking skills in our children there’s two things to make note of from my question about a wasp. For some reason I’ve kept this question locked up in my head for approximately 25 years. What’s stopped me asking this question? Why didn’t I bring it up during my hundreds of science lessons at school? Why didn’t I ever ask my parents or friends?

In fact, Einstein did more than just notice what the blind beetle couldn’t see. He was able to imagine it by conjuring up thought experiments. That ability to visualize the unseen has always been the key to creative genius. As Einstein later put it, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Walter Issacson (NY Times)

I wonder if this is a question that I must answer on my own? Am I forever destined to wrestle with this question until I begin to formulate a theory? Do we all have these types of experiences as a child – and if so perhaps there really is a scientist within everyone of us?

As these thought experiments remind us, creativity is based on imagination. If we hope to inspire kids to love science, we need to do more than drill them in math and memorized formulas. We should stimulate their minds’ eyes as well. Even let them daydream.- Walter Issacson (NY Times)

Read The Light-Beam Rider here.


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