Sunday, 18 August 2019

Project 98: Doctor Dolittle

It was another hectic week of activities this week, so we picked a book as the basis of the week's project to ensure that the project work wasn't lost amongst the chaos! As the week was already including a trip to a 'mini-farm' we decided to read the classic The Story of Doctor Dolittle.

We bought the Alma Junior edition of the story, which also includes a nice multiple choice quiz at the back. It's a nice feature, and we will probably buy some more Alma Junior editions again in the future.
The Story of Doctor Dolittle
At the 'mini-farm' we asked the children how they thought the animals felt, and if they were the animals what noises they would make. There was a difference of opinion on how the animals would feel, with Monica thinking they would be happy because they were with their friends, and Solomon thinking they would be sad because they were locked up.
We watched the classic Doctor Dolittle with Rex Harrison, rather than the Eddie Murphy version, as it was closer to the spirit of the book, if not actually following the story itself. Despite being longer than most modern children's films (at 2 hr 32 mins), they've all enjoyed it.
Finally, the children made their own animal masks. Solomon chose a tiger, and Monica chose a rabbit.
Two rabbits and a tiger.
Next week's project: The Earth.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Project 97: Jobs, careers and vocations

As Solomon is always trying to come up with money making schemes, we tried to get the children to think a bit more this week about what they might like to do for when they get older, and the importance of different jobs.

We started the week by discussing some of the many different jobs that are available, from footballers and games designers, to bin men and priests. Rather than just thinking about how much the jobs would pay, or how much fun they would be, we got them to plot the jobs on a chart, with importance on the X axis and pay on the Y axis.  We also introduced the idea of them working for themselves, with the Usborne Business for Beginners
Job chart showing that pay and importance are uncorrelated!
When asked what they might like to do when they grow up both Monica and Solomon went for stereotypical choices: Solomon wants to be a computer games designer, and Monica wants to be a mummy.

Neither of their choices particularly lends themselves to a family excursion - but we nonetheless took them to a new soft play centre with a series of traditional shops for the sort of role-playing fun they always enjoy (see also Project 74: Royal Mail).
Jobs at the Soft Play
After watching some videos on the work of games designers, Monica and Solomon had to write a short composition on what they wanted to do and why. Despite our best efforts at suggesting alternative careers to Monica (and watching related videos), she nonetheless stuck to her guns on wanting to be a full time mum.

Based on Solomon's choice of career, it also seemed an appropriate project for introducing a new Nintendo Switch game: Super Mario Maker 2. This game allows users to design and share their own Super Mario levels, and share them online.  After a few initial efforts, where games were designed on-the-fly, we took our time to plan out a game in a bit more detail (and with pen and paper first) and our Mario maze was rewarded with our first 'like'.

Pipe Maze on Super Mario Maker 2
Next project: Doctor Dolittle

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Project 96: The Fens

As our home town of Peterborough is also known as 'the Gateway to the Fens', the Fens seemed an appropriate project for a project - especially as there are plenty of museums to choose from in the Fens that we haven't visited yet.

We started the week by exploring the history of the fens, and how the area has changed over time with a number of videos . 

This was followed by some of the stories associated with the fens, most notable of which was the story of Hereward the Wake. Hereward's story was also told in a Horrible Histories episode, and Horrible Histories has quickly become the children's programme of choice.

Books with Stories of the Fens
We picked Ely Museum for our weekly excursion, as it has a few displays on the fens (and was also about to be closed for a year as it undergoes a refurbishment). It is a nice little museum, with plenty to do and see. 

Ely Museum at the Old Gaol
We followed our trip with a closer exploration of more recent fen life - from wildfowling and flooding to fen skating and bandy. That southern England has such a close connection with winter sports is one of the more surprising aspects of the fens.

Finally the children made their own eels from paper plates.
An eel in Jubilee Gardens, Ely, and some made from paper plates

Next week's project: jobs, careers, and vocations. 

Monday, 29 July 2019

Project 95: Films

With a heat wave expected we picked Films, a project where we could spend most of the week indoors in the dark - after all, there's not a lot of fun dragging three small children out in the burning sun!

We watched a number of films over the week, from silent films through to the modern CGI blockbusters, from The Great Train Robbery (1903) through to The Kid Who Would Be King (2019). Along the way we watched Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, the Wizard of Oz, and Labyrinth.

It's always nice to introduce the children to a world of films beyond the current crop of animation and CGI, and I'm always amazed how some of the classics can hold their attention.The Marx Brother's Duck Soup was one of the favourites of the week, and I can honestly say I have never known our children laugh so much at a film!
We've watch the Wizard of Oz before (see Project 24: World Book Day and the Wizard of Oz), but it was nonetheless nice to watch it again in the context of moving from black and white through to colour, and also as a great example of the hero's journey which we discussed at length having introduced it previously (see Project 33: Ancient Greece).

Similarly, Labyrinth was also a cross-over film, not only a great example of what could be achieved before the modern glut of CGI, but it also included the beginnings of  CGI with what is considered to be the first realistic CGI animal to appear on the big screen. It was also a nice excuse to introduce the children to a bit of family history, as the children's great grandfather had been an extra in Jennifer Connolly's first acting role in Tales of the Unexpected: Stranger in Town

We explored how the brain is tricked into seeing moving images by making flick books and thaumatropes, and finally finished with making a simple stop-go animation film using the Stikbot Studio App.
Flick books and thaumatropes

Next week's project: The Fens

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Project 94: Sir Francis Drake

This week's project was chosen because the Golden Hinde (the full-size replica of Drake's Golden Hind), is easily accessible from the Thameslink railway; it is literally a stroll from Blackfriars bridge that even a 3 year old can make it without too much fuss.

We started the week with a couple of documentaries - watching the CBeebies My Story episode on Sir Francis Drake, and the Channel 5 Great British Ships documentary on The Golden Hind. The kids found them both interesting, and even the Great British Ships documentary (originally broadcast at 9pm) was easily accessible to a 5 and 6 yr old.

Everyone enjoyed the Golden Hinde. It doesn't matter how many films you see or books you read, nothing quite makes history come alive like the real (or at least replica) thing. It's a small working ship, rather than a museum, but we still spent about 50 minutes doing the self-guided tour.
Golden Hinde
On a three year circumnavigation of the world there would have been a lot of ship's biscuits eaten, so we made our own following the recipe from the Royal Museums Greenwich. They were actually surprisingly tasty, so we may be forced to find a less enjoyable recipe next time!

Ship's biscuits
Finally we watched an old black and white film - Drake of England. The nice thing about old films is that they are generally quite family friendly, rather than today's docudramas which are seemingly the historical fantasy of teenage boys. Nonetheless the dialogue and special effects were of their time (1935), so it was a bit of a push for the children to stay focused all the way through. 

Drake of England
Next week's project: Films. 

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Project 93: VR and AR

We decided to do Virtual Reality as a project after they released the Nintendo Labo VR kit, and broadened the project out to include Augmented Reality so that comparisons could be made between the different ways of engaging with digital information.

We bought the Labo VR starter kit, which consisted of two builds: the VR Goggles and the Blaster, which once built can be used with both inbuilt mini-games and some main titles (e.g., Mario Odyssey and Splatoon). We've previously used the Nintendo Labo Variety Kit builds for:

In comparison, the goggles are quick and easy to build, but the blaster is quite complicated. As with all these builds - they're suitable for a 6 year old with good concentration, but can be hard work with anyone younger. 

The Nintendo Labo VR Kit
Like most children, ours are big fans of Harry Potter, so the new Wizards Unite app was a good way to get them out of the house and introduce them to AR. They loved the app, and luckily we live in an area with plenty of 'inns' for replenishing energy, so the children are more than happy to go out for an hour or two of collecting various Harry Potter digital tat.
Solomon running down his father's battery
As well as the Harry Potter app, we also explored AR as a tool for enhancing the real world with more useful information by doing the Peterborough Cathedral tour using the Gamar App. Unsurprisingly, for children who love both museum trails and screens, they loved the digital trail!
Peterborough Cathedral App
 Finally, we finished our VR/AR week by watching the 1980s classic Tron:

The graphics may have improved, but the warnings are as relevant as ever!

Next week's project: Sir Francis Drake.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Project 92: Stig of the Dump

We chose a book as the focus for this week's project, as in a hectic week of activities and meetups a book provides something concrete to work our way through. Stig of the Dump was picked as it's not only a classic, but it's suitable for reading with small children in a week. 

There is a reason Stig of the Dump is a classic, everyone loved it and couldn't wait for the next chapter. 

We headed for the woods and built our own den (albeit without a paint pot chimney and window made of glass bottles):
Unfortunately Monica is one of those children who always seems to end up getting bitten by insects in the woods, so we ended up building the den in a bit of a clearing (although only after she'd been bitten!).

Once the book was finished we watched the 2002 series, which was enjoyable, although not as good as the book.

Finally the children had to write their own book reviews. 
Stig of the Dump review by Solomon (left) and Monica (right)
Next project: Virtual and Augmented Reality