Friday, August 31, 2012

First FIRST Certificate

I recently read an article on that listed 27 skills a child should have that are not taught in school. These are some tough skills to teach mostly because you can't teach them by reading books about them or just talking about them. You have to model each and every one of these skills. And frankly, I lack a few myself. But the list is far from complete. So I started thinking what other skills I'd add to it. Mostly I thought about the ones that I, regretfully, don't have (but it's never too late to learn them, right?)

One of the very first ones I thought of was the ability to finish what you've started. I'm terrible at it! When I look around the house, I see a ton of half-done or barely started projects. In my blogging notebook (for the company blogs I write for) I have a ton of ideas and even rough drafts that I'm yet to complete. And my bucket list is just not getting any shorter and nor does my reading list.

So now I'm trying to be better at it, at finishing what I've started that is. Hopefully, it will transform my life in all sorts of positive ways, but most importantly, it will set out a good example for M. I think, so far, he's doing way better than his Mama.

Consider this - he actually finished his first-ever Junior FIRST Lego League! Yes, and he's got a certificate to prove it! And he can't wait for the next session to start in less than 2 weeks.

Now, this Jr FLL was organized by some awesome homeschooling moms. Not only did they organize it, they coached all those 5-8 year olds the entire summer! All I did was to bring snacks (once) and help with some prep work (twice). Which was good 'cause I had no idea what Jr FLL was about when I first signed M up for it. 

You can find out more about it on the official Jr FLL page. If you were to ask M what Jr FLL was all about, he'd tell you it's about Legos, running around with friends, and about oceans. That's because the theme for the summer was Ocean Odyssey. So for 8 weeks the kids got together once a week for about 3 hours to learn about oceans through videos, books, experiments and, of course, Legos.

At the end of the 8 weeks, they got into teams. Each team had to create a poster board that showcased the team members and what they learned about oceans. And they had to build an ocean scene on a large Lego plate. They also had to build some ocean-going vehicles - boats, submarines, etc., maybe even with moving parts.

The big unexpected and exciting outcome of the Ocean Odyssey for M was that he really liked the topic. He loved learning about the oceans and a trip to FL really helped too. Of course, he concentrated on his favorite topics, like protecting oceans from trash (this was a recurring theme in his conversations and crafts) and underwater volcanoes. But he also loved learning about fish and whales and dolphins and, especially, corals. He now says "Mama, I have a new interest - oceans" which makes me very happy.

Then there was a bit open-house type event where other teams who worked through the summer came over with their displays and Lego plates. Kids got to see each other's work, explore others ocean scenes and get certificates for participation (this was not a part of the official Jr FLL competition though).
The open house was awesome. In addition to the displays, there were some cool stations set up for kids, including sand art, foil boats, and a huge Lego build with tons of blocks. M tried his hand at every one of these activities. But the one he loved the most was taking apart old printers. A while ago we tried something like this at a local Maker Faire. But it was more of a "break it into the smallest pieces you can" deal whereas here the kids were given a task of taking certain parts (mostly motors) out without damaging them. So the only tools they could use were screwdrivers. I thought that'd dampen M's interest, but boy was I wrong!
He spent about an hour, I think, working intently on a printer and then - on a scanner. Took out a couple of motors and proudly handed them to the adult supervisor. Then he asked if he could take home some plastic gears he found and also the two printed circuit boards he took out. He was particularly happy about the PCBs.
Him and his little friend each got 2 boards and immediately started pretend-playing that those were parts of a city they called Electrocity. They talked excitedly about their Electrocity for a while and M kept at it for a couple more days, spending hours pouring over his PCBs, showing me where everything was in his Electrocity - a school, a university, a museum of everything, a store called "Everything Showers" (if you're curious, it sells soap and bath fixtures) and a store called "Everything Batteries", a central square, a water tower, a soda tower, a milk tower, etc, etc. He also explored the city roads and came to the conclusion that there were no intersections in Electrocity. I hinted that the traffic lights would not be necessary, but he countered that the road were so narrow that they better have traffic lights to warn cars of other slower cars in their way (sort of like the railroad signals, I guess).

This is not to say he doesn't know what the "roads" on PCBs are for. He actually explained to me right away that, according to one of his favorite cartoons, the roads are really for "electrical current to run along". I honestly had no idea he knew this since this particular cartoon, called "Fixiki" irritates the heck out of me and I refuse to watch it.

But the most important thing was, of course, that he finished the entire Jr FLL summer session. It was hard with all our travels and other distractions that happen in the summer. And it was hard because working with small Lego pieces is difficult for M. And it was hard because he was one of the youngest boys in the group and the youngest on his team. But he did it and he built his vehicle and worked with others on building the ocean scene. He also built his own ocean scene on a smaller plate at home. It showed a beautiful beach with a turtle nest (there were some eggs in it even) and a secret treasure chest and the ocean had lots of corals and sea weed with lots of little places for fish to hide. I didn't have a chance to take a picture since I kept forgetting and then it got taken apart to build a sensory deprivation chamber for astronaut training.

And now M's counting days for the next Jr FLL challenge to start. The theme is Super Seniors. I'll keep you posted. Let me know if your child participates in Jr FLL.


  1. I have a terrible time finishing things as well - not very helpful at work :) Sounds like FLL was awesome. Maybe my husband, a Lego fanatic, should start one :)

    1. Girls love Jr FLL too. There's a team of 7-8 year old girls in our Jr FLL club (sometimes the teams are mixed-gender, but this time we let kids choose the team and all the girls wanted to be on one team. Plus they said there was no way they wanted their team name to be Lego Super Villains) and they do some amazing stuff. It is so interesting to watch them work - their approach is VERY different from boys'.