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

Monday 1 July 2019

Project 91: The Seaside

This week's project was picked to coincide with a short family holiday to Great Yarmouth. As well as the usual sandcastles, donkey rides, and fish and chips on the promenade, the holiday took a more academic slant with a trip to the Sea Life Centre and the Time and Tide Museum of Great Yarmouth Life.

Great Yarmouth
Solomon and Monica hadn't been to a sea life centre since Monica's 1st birthday, so it was all very new to them. As usual, they particularly liked the trails they did as they went round, but Solomon also picked the underwater tunnel as a highlight.
Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre
Time and Tide is a really nice museum providing a history of Great Yarmouth life, and although we allowed 2.5 hrs the children could have probably enjoyed it for another hour as there was plenty to keep them engaged. Once again they enjoyed the museum trail, along with the Victorian row of shops and houses and the current exhibition on medieval medicine (in particular the video on the black death!). The only downside was the price as Norfolk museums charge, but as it was still cheaper than the (outrageously priced) pirate crazy golf we can't complain too much.
Time and Tide
We finished the week with Solomon and Monica creating their own seaside scenes, and watching the Our Planet episode on coastal seas.
Solomon's (left) and Monica's (right) Seaside Scenes
Next project: Stig of the Dump