Green Kids Craft Box Review #TeacherMom

Thanks to thoughtful grandparents, my daughter received a subscription to the Green Kids Craft Box for her birthday. She gets to look forward to a fresh box each month, and I don’t have to pull out my hair trying to make room for one more toy. Win-win!

First off, what’s in the box? Over the course of two boxes so far (one with a Green Energy theme, the other with Robotics), my daughter has:

  • built a self-propelling wooden boat
  • baked herself a cookie in her own solar oven
  • launched “rockets” using a straw
  • built an art-bot that drew for her
  • navigated courses with her magnetic robot
  • Created a pulley “Glide-bot” (which now resides on our filthy sliding glass door)

As a mom and a teacher, I absolutely love that she has something to fuel her curiosity and creativity for hours on end.

My favorite element of this box is the fact that it provides interdisciplinary opportunities:

  • She has to read loads of instructions (which are very detailed with pictures), so she’s working hard on her reading and comprehension skills.
  • She has to take a lot of measurements, so she’s developing her ability to convert between inches and centimeters, along with other basic math skills.
  • Science skills are by the boatload here (pun intended, I guess, as she actually did build a little boat): hypothesizing, experimenting, data-collecting, reflecting, etc.
  • Even engineering and art (definitely a win for the whole STEM/STEAM endeavor) get a work-out as she has to figure out pulleys, gears, and brads, plus general aesthetic design.

I’m guessing that if I spent enough hours combing Pinterest, I could maybe find most of these activities. However, the fact that I don’t have to go hunt down a bunch of obscure materials is worth my time. And there really is something magical for kids about receiving your own little parcel in the mail made just for you, especially with the added anticipation of a monthly subscription!

Overall, I’d definitely recommend these boxes to the 5-8 year-old crowd!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

The Consuming that Leads to Creating #TeacherMom

While watching DisneyNature’s Growing Up Wild documentary, my two year old son assumes new roles: first, a bear. Then a monkey. Our dog becomes the scary lion. His crawling brother, a baby monkey. The couch, a big tree for scurrying to safety. For the rest of the day, we are not allowed to address him by his name, and with every turn, his surroundings transform into elements of his clearly vivid habitat.

We often hear caution about consuming — with technology, food, entertainment, and more. And especially when people allow themselves to be consumed by their own consumption — that is, they don’t reflect upon and make deliberate choices in what/how they consume — those warnings are probably warranted.

However, I am inspired as I further ponder this cycle of positive, deliberate consuming and creating. My son is currently enamored of the animal kingdom; every new show, book, or toy seems to spark some new fantastical adventure for him. As a toddler, he obviously isn’t yet terribly discerning in his media consumption. But when we help provide him with material that lends itself to his budding interests, he goes from being an passive audience to a vibrant creator.

And it makes me wonder…

…how often do we deliberately fuel our own fires with the things that bring us inspiration?

…how often do we teach our students to be similarly purposeful?

…what if, instead of attaching blanket shame to consuming, we spend our energies teaching our students to become more intentional and aware in their decision-making process?

I love that watching my kids’ creative process unfold gives me the opportunity to reflect on my own habits and interests — one of the more unexpected outcomes of a toddler pretending to be a monkey.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Getting Creatively REAL with Our Students

Fractions. History. Essay-writing. We like to tell ourselves that these are neat, linear, and formulaic. That the perfect boxed curriculum or textbook will give us step-by-step instructions and printables. That we can contain and document the learning in a consistent, objective, and measurable path.

But the truth is that real learning is messy, nonlinear, and oh-so-creative.

I was inspired by this new video by New Age Creators entitled, “An Honest Look into Creativity:”

I was struck by the parallels between what I’ve learned of the learning process and how she describes her creative process.

When I search my memory for the most magical and in-depth learning moments with my students, I find that creativity was usually the common denominator. It doesn’t take long for two specific anecdotes to come to mind:

1. During my third year of teaching, I decided that if I was going to ask my fifth graders to make goals that were truly meaningful and challenging for them, that I should openly lead the way. I shared that I had always told myself that I was not at all artistic. I explained my desire to make more room for art in class and for myself. I told them how I’d always wished I could consider myself creative. And I asked them for their help. For the rest of the year, it was as if they responded to a clarion call. I was amazed not only at their deep interest and support of my personal goal, but at how much more open they seemed to digging deeper and taking risks with their own growth.

2. One day, as my students were working on writing some limericks, I sat down to write my own. During wrap-up, I shared–not just the finished product, but my thought process and inspiration in putting it together. That kind of modeling became more second-nature for me as time wore on, but at the time, it was a risky move in creativity. And again, it seemed to result in opened floodgates of my my students’ enthusiasm and willingness to discuss their personal writing processes.

These and other experiences have taught me that no genuine effort in cultivating a creative learning environment goes to waste. The profound benefits I’ve witnessed include:

  • Strengthen the teacher-student relationship as students sense you are right in the learning trenches with them.
  • Make the process more tangible and open to dialogue.
  • Decrease the hypocrisy of expecting students to do what you would never do yourself.
  • Help students and teachers better understand their own learning processes.
  • Create a sense of authenticity and decrease the perfectionism as students and teachers learn to drop the charade of learning looking a certain way for everyone.

What are reasons you make creativity a priority?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto