Monday, October 27, 2014

Where's MacGyver? How Scarcity Can Encourage Creativity

Who remembers MacGyver? This guy was a true hero, he could make and solve anything with household items in a matter of minutes. He had a great lid too.

In a day and age where many of our children are given 1:1 devices, their own room, their own toys, even their own box of crayons and bag of supplies, why is it surprising to us that there is a loss of creativity and gratefulness?

A few weeks ago at STEAM Studio, one of our after school clubs, STEAM Club for Girls (grades 1-4), was engaged in an activity where they brainstormed, designed, then built their dream room. Being that this is our first session in our new space and we are supported by our non profit organization, STEAM Engine, supplies are limited. Some might even think they are scarce.  BUT...

...there is a bigger reason for that and here's why:

  1. The sky is not always the limit:  When a child dreams big, we all are excited. Really there is no crazy idea when you are in the brainstorming stage. It's when you start thinking about planning and developing that idea, reality sets in. During our activity, we showed the students the cubbies where all the materials where. Ten cubbies with a variety of materials ranging from craft sticks, rulers, glue, marshmellows and toothpicks, scissors, tape, markers, paper, fabric, textiles, and so on.  We discussed that they needed to sketch out their room, make a list of what materials they were thinking they would need, then we would move on from there.  Sure, some of them wanted materials we did not have, pipe cleaners, stickers, or small wooden furniture. However, what happened from there was exciting to see and incredibly encouraging to hear...
  2. Soft skills develop when you share: Twelve scissors for twenty - eight girls. Yep. Purposeful and planned to show them the importance of waiting your turn, sharing of resources and kindly asking someone for something you need. We role played and then gave gentle reminders. You know what? No one got stabbed out of frustration and every one of the girls got to cut what they wanted.  They learned how to move on to something else while they waited and the importance of working as a team to get through what they needed.
  3. Real world application comes alive: What happens when you want to make a waterbed for your dream room and you only have some craft supplies to do it?  You brainstorm and share. One girl saw some sandwich baggies and said, "what if we put some water in a sandwich baggie,closed it, measure, cut and tape some fabric over it? we can make a waterbed!" Other girls decided to make a fish tank out of water in a baggie, then add blue food coloring. We even had a hot tub made! In the real world, there is a budget when you are building something and you may only have a limited amount of resources/materials to use. Kids need to be reminded we can't just run to the store every time we need something. You don't have to throw money at a problem to solve it.
  4. Ideas ignite and brains spark solutions:  As the sharing continued, more ideas came out of the discussion. Cotton ball pillows, marshmellow and toothpicks made furniture, craft sticks  stairs, it went on and on. It literally was like watching a domino effect go around the studio. One girl would share an idea and the others would add their twist or another idea would spark. Sure, there were challenging times for them when they had to go back and figure out another way to develop their design.  Through some encouragement and thinking, they built their room from their dream.
  5. A better tomorrow: We encourage our families and friends to recycle, we are trying to prepare our next generation of learners for jobs which do not even exist and for jobs we are losing to other countries. If we want to keep our country growing in a positive way, our kids need to not only think outside the box, but under it, on it, over it and all around it.

Perhaps MacGyver was on to something when he said

Maybe it's about time I expanded the realm of possibilities around here." (Season 1)

What realm of possibilities will you expand today?

Check out this initiative about how scarcity and creativity is being researched:
(You can click on a word and it will show you how others are solving problems and not letting scarcity of materials or the mere definition of it hold them back from moving forward.)

Take 7 minutes and watch this video! It will open your mind about how scarcity can encourage creativity, and Gautam is pretty funny.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Royals and the World Series 2014! What Are The Odds?

We are ready! Got Goggles?

Here we come! Sweeping in like Royals do. This didn't just happen because of luck. Hard work and a lot of math shows how we have made it this far....

Just so you know, the Giants have been in 8 playoffs and 4 World Series since 1985 (Royals are zero to zero there).

Nonetheless, we are on a roll! Some of my favorite players, their stats and interesting facts:

Cain is Able
Lorenzo Cain. Will he earn his Gold Glove? We are all rooting for him. This amazing athlete has attracted much attention for his center and right field catches, but nothing holds a candle to this perseverance though it all. He didn't even begin playing baseball until his junior year in High School (!?) and yet he has proven time and time again this season that he has what it takes. He's known for hitting with the wood and catching with the leather. Not only is he an exceptional outfielder but he is ranked #14 in batting average of .353.

Perez Says
Salvador Perez. Can he catch or what? He's got a strong arm. This boy is 1 for 15 in the ALCS and 4 of 34 for the post season which makes him a candidate for the World Series MVP. According to Baseball Reference, compared to the 26% of would be base thieves, Perez has thrown out 33%. In the fantasy football world, he is ranked fifth most valued players among catchers. Fun fact, he has a thing for Victoria Secret perfume, he explains it brings him good luck. I'm not sure what the stats are on that?

Mike Moustakas. A fellow southpaw, bats left but throws right, this third baseman has lit the stadium up with four playoff homers in the post season. How about that monumental diving catch? Yep, you don't see that everyday. In fact, Moose is known for being one of the two highest high school picks  since the 1965 draft (the other was Matt Dominguez/Astros). His game has stepped up since the post season games (coming back from Triple A).  He was quoted as saying, in 2012, "It's a crazy game, there's numbers for everything, there's a lot of stuff we can't explain as players."

Butler Serves
Billy Butler. Who doesn't love Billy Boy? This 240 pound champion stole second base in Game 3 after not taking the leap since 2012 when he went 2 for 3.  Cain expressed his excitement by saying, "When Billy Butler steals a base, you know it's your night." He instantly became everyone's DH favorite. What can you expect from Billy in the World Series? Well, we might lose one of our more accomplished hitters for three games to pinch hitting according to some sources. Let's hope Billy can pull out a homer, a steal or a big hit!

Hot Hosmer
Eric Hosmer. He's on fire. This South Miami native always has a smile and enjoys celebrating. If you remember, he was on the disabled list for a month with a fractured right hand, but that hasn't kept him from coming back and leaving his mark.  Only 11 other American League players have hit more doubles than Hosmer. He won a Gold Glove in 2013 and currently has a batting average of .448. He's double his line drive rate from 16. 9% to 31.3 % . Will he be our next George Brett

Noteworthy mention: Players above who weren't even born in 1985: Lorenzo Cain (1986), Salvador Perez (1990), Mike Moustakas (1988), Billy Butler (1986), Eric Hosmer (1989). Yep-All of them! No playoff experience...but times have changed.

BIG TIP: At the beginning only 10 teams were given a worse chance than the Royals to make it. But now, the prediction is...Royals in 7. Boom!

For more predictions based on math, click here.

We are gonna party like it's 1985!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Gifted Programs: Why Do the Smart Kids Get To Do All The Cool Stuff?

What does it mean to be gifted?

I live in a house which was built in 1940. Don't ask why, I'll give you the cliche response that it is charming, but some days it really isn't. It is in constant need of renovations here and there, but it's the place where my kids run around, learn and explore, so it's home to us. 

There is the constant need of fixing toilets, painting, updating decor and making sure the roof and foundation are in good condition. It's not something we can ignore,  we need to keep looking at ways to improve our house so it remains solid in the years to come when we are still living here or want to sell!

School systems are no different. They are in constant need of attention and improvement, just like any other home or facility where we house precious people and things. Yet, we have these systems in place which need some updates, some renovations. One area is Gifted Programs.

The first year I taught 5th grade, I had several students in my class in the LEAP program. Each week, on Wednesdays, they would eagerly board a bus and leave us for a whole day. They would return to my classroom all excited about the projects they were engaged in, the higher level learning they were experiencing. I was genuinely happy for them. What an amazing experience to leave school all day and dive into all types of projects and interactive, collaborative activities with kids your own age from other schools who were excited to do the same thing.

Isn't that what every student wants? Isn't every child gifted in some way?

Then there were those left behind. The average and even considered, "below average" students. We carried on in class and I'd like to think I did my best to continue to make learning just as fun, but in the end, I'm sure it wasn't. I mean, getting bused away to this amazing building, the land of making, exploring and developing your thoughts and learning? 

There are basically two ways schools strive to meet the needs of all kids:

Push In: School programs that encourage inclusion of all different learning types are evident in many educational institutions. Providing extra support in the classroom can be observed through realm of team teaching, para professionals helping students, teacher aides working one-on-one and parent volunteers. These are ways many schools compensate to keep all children in the classroom learning together.

Pull Out: Having children leave the classroom and offering them extra help or enrichment is still on the rise. One of the main issues of pulling kids out of class for enrichment or instructional support is the transition time, at least 10 minutes of learning is lost each time a student is taken from class. However, allowing students to exit the classroom to experience more individualized instruction can be key to moving them forward academically.

The bottom line is this: 

Should identified "gifted" children be the only ones who get to leave and have all the fun?


Should they be required to remain in the same classroom all day exposed to the same material they have already mastered? 


Should students who are average or labeled "below" be required to stay in the same room all day and not access enrichment programs. 


Could every student benefit from leaving the building and experiencing enrichment.


This is where we are headed with STEAM Studio. Teachers and parents cannot do it all. There needs to be a variety of programs out there which cater to the diverse needs of our students. All students deserve enrichment, regardless of the IQ.

Kids aren't just numbers. We need all types to solve problems. They all are part of an equation to make our world a more interesting place. 
Let's renovate our enrichment programs to connect with all students.

How do we really know who is gifted? Appearance and standardized test scores are not always valid indicators.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Blue October: The Science Behind Baseball

#beroyal  #stayroyal

What a feeling! The MLB game Tuesday night will go down in the history books, especially for Kansas City fans, as one of the most significant games ever. Coming back from three decades of losing and an almost five hour game, the Kansas City Royals finally came out as winners.

With the Oakland A's having a 7-3 lead in the 6th inning, it seemed impossible for the Royals to pull out ahead in the Wild Card game. But they did it, their fans, their families and their team persevered to the very end.

So, what happens now? How does a team actually move ahead and win the World Series? It's not luck, it's hard work, and some science.

Here are five interesting facts that you should know about the science behind baseball:

  • Baseball's Dirty Little Secret: How many stitches?  Rawlings has been the MLB official baseball provider since 1977. Each baseball has 108 stitches with the first and last perfectly hidden. It's also perfectly symmetrical. The average life of a baseball is 6 pitches. The official balls are rubbed in a "secret" mud which makes them easier to pitch. It dulls the white color, makes them less slick and gives the pitcher more of a grip on them. America's official baseball is also manufactured in Costa Rica.
  • Swingers: Bat swing and speed vs. batted ball velocity seems to be a topic of controversy. Some will say the heavier the bat, the farther the ball will go. According to researchers that is true. HOWEVER, it obviously takes more effort and strength to swing a heavier bat. If you can't swing as fast then your ball isn't going to go as far. Researchers, consequently, will point out that the swing is even more important as it gets the ball where it needs to go. So, the faster you can swing, the farther the ball will go.  If a player can swing a heavier bat just as fast as they can a lighter bat, then their ball will go farther. But, if a player swings faster with a lighter bat, then stick to that if you want a chance at a home run. More than anything, the moment of inertia means the most (see below, "the sweet spot").Make sense?
  • The Sweet Spot: We all hear about the sweet spot and how it gives home runs. How does it happen? Experts explain that if the ball is traveling at 90 mph, it must hit the swinging bat at 80 mph hour (on the 1/8 of the special spot) which catapults it out at 110 mph, enough for a home run. How does one know it's hit the sweet spot? There is a stinging in the hands when the sweet spot is hit, according to most players, and it feels the best because it produces the longest hit.
  • Head First: According to a physicist at Washington University, it is faster to slide head first than feet first. He explains the arms are lighter than the legs, and the feet give a little extra push. That being said, players risk more injury with their arms out first, which can impede batting and catching.
  • So Close to Home: Most people will tell you 3rd and home base are the hardest to steal. Everyone knows the odds are against you if you are trying to steal home. Obviously, stealing 3rd base gets you closer to home but there are all kinds of variables which come into play. One is, never steal with a lefty at the plate because the pitcher doesn't have to throw over or around him to get to third base. Secondly, according to the kinematic model, most professional players will over slide the base and use the actual base to stop themselves to remain the highest speed possible. Rickey Henderson, of the Oakland A's holds the highest record of stolen bases: 1,406. This gave him the title of the "Man of Steal."

Now you have it--some science to look for next time you are watching America's favorite pastime. Wonder if all these theories are right? 
Go out there and play ball!

Check out the parody of Lorde's Royals. Great shots of KC famous spots.