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Bio: Among many other things, I'm a mother of three boys ages 8,5, and 2.
Posts by GHLieberman:
- No, Neither Ben Franklin nor Thomas Edison “invented” electricity, though they are important for their inventions that furthered the understanding and use of it.
- Electricity is naturally occurring, though of course not in the 110 v socket arrangement.
- Electricity comes from the movement of energy in the form of electrons from one atom to another atom (atoms, being the smallest form of any given kind of element (the stuff everything is made from).
- Some materials conduct electricity better than others (conductive) and some are better at stopping the flow of energy (insulating).
- What’s the difference between a AA battery and a D cell battery?
- Why don’t batteries have the same danger of electrocution that outlets have?
spiraling ghosts, cursive skeletons, or old-fashioned scarecrows. They had a good time getting crafty, and quite significantly, because of their wonderful behavior, so did we! What a difference from the previous meeting.
We explained to them that we would all be happier and achieve more of our goals as a group if we found a better way to manage our behavior. We introduced the Daring Boys at Bat System. They all start out “at bat.” Good behavior can get boys to first base, second base… even to home run. They all wanted to know what they “got” if they managed a home run. (They get a happy, effective group, and the pride of knowing they contributed to it.) When they fail to meet expectations they move to “strike 1″ or “strike 2″ or so on. If somehow a boy strikes out three times, he’s out, meaning he won’t be able to come to the next DBC meeting. In reality, I can’t imagine doing that (shhh, don’t tell the boys that), but it is a powerful reminder to them of the importance of cooperating and respecting our group guidelines. Likewise, we added (at the spur of the moment) the ability to move the entire group up or down the board. We decided that we would work towards a goal, perhaps something like rock climbing when the boys got a certain number of points. They can earn points (or lose them) by getting on base (or striking out). The boys were clearly enthusiastic about the new system and it really helped manage the large group more effectively. I like it because it incorporates responses to both negative and positive, group and individual behavior in the same system. The other thing that made our gathering so successful was the number of grownups. We had five of us there, with one grown-up to each station and me as the floater. Dividing the boys up into smaller groups is essential. This time we even divided them up for snack. Told them who to go sit with, where to sit, and even what question to discuss while they munched on apple oatmeal cookie bars and cheddar cheese slices. (I won’t even tell you how many cookie bars some of those boys ate, but sorry if they didn’t eat dinner… at least they were all organic and made with yogurt, apples, and oatmeal). The more we structure it like a classroom experience (with lots of grown-up support), the better experience they have. Thanks to our helpful team of grow-up volunteers (Caitlin, Michael, Dani, and Chris).
Our little experiment with this new organization for boys is definitely growing. We started this adventure just about 18 months ago, and we’ve grown a lot since then. We now have two groups going and 24 boys involved all together (not counting siblings). I hope that we continue to expand and develop to include more boys in more places, but we definitely have some learning to do along the way about how to effectively manage and organize all those boys!
Last week at our house we had 19 boys (14 3rd graders, four little brothers, and one big brother). That’s a whole lot of male energy! My main plan was to have them build popsicle stick bridges, but we never even got to that!
It took us quite a bit of time to round the boys up at school, but while we were waiting, the boys that we had were pretty excited to show off their armpit-farting prowess and get in a leaf fight. That should have been a clue how the afternoon was going to unfold.
When we finally got to our house, we tried to have our opening circle, but the boys were rather would up and had a hard time reviewing the rules (this is not a playdate, sit on furniture appropriately, leave places cleaner than found, pay attention to the speaker, etc.), Even though we reviewed the “give me 5 rule” (eyes on speaker, ears to speaker, mouth quiet, body still, brain engaged) we didn’t get more than 3 at any given time from most boys!
I got a whole bunch of new shoelaces at the drugstore and wanted to show them this clever new technique for tying shoes. Many of them wear velcro shoes, and I pointed out that as they grow older there will be fewer and fewer velcro shoe options for real adventuring. If they want to be adventurous, they ought to be able to tie their shoes for starters. I thought we’d practice the new technique and have a little contest to see who could tie shoes the fastest. It wasn’t a very structured contest this time around, but we’ll revisit it, after all, I have all those shoelaces now. (How did we practice tying shoes with just shoelaces and no shoes on? Easy, just tie the string around your foot.)
Then we had to break for a little snack of popcorn and apples from the yard. Snack always takes forever. They’d be happy eating snack and hanging out for half an hour I’m sure. I always feel like I have to pull them back together, but finally we got started on the activity. My plan was to warm up with some marshmallow and toothpick construction and then go into the main activity of popsicle stick bridges. We never made it past marshmallows. That’s okay. They enjoyed that. And several boys had to leave early for a soccer game.
Their task with the marshmallows was to build a garage big enough to roll in one of the toy trucks I gave them. It was not easy! If I’d given them matchbox cars it would have been a cinch, but the height was the challenge. Here are their attempts:
When we finished the marshmallow construction competition, we watched a short video on Galloping Gertie, the Tacoma Narrow bridge that lasted 4 months in 1940 before coming crashing down. A good example of the importance of quality engineering. It would have made more sense with our bridge engineering project, but that’s all we had time for. I sent some of the boys home with projects for the bridge. We may revisit it with everyone later. In the meantime, here are the instructions for the activity.
Caitlin and I met on Wednesday to talk about the club. We’re both very committed to making this work, but we need some new strategies with so many boys (including two busy toddlers instead of two sleepy babies). We are going to be introducing some new behavior management strategies in the next meeting that hopefully will help the boys get more out of the gatherings. Stay tuned!
We’re excited to welcome several new boys to the 3rd grade group this year. We’re looking forward to doing a nature scavenger hunt 10/2. Check here in the future for posts about our adventures.
The Edison 2nd Grade Daring Boys’ Club will meet 10/2 after school for a nature scavenger hunt with Sonya Margerum. Check here in the future for blog posts of their adventures.
We are excited to announce the formation of two separate chapters of the Daring Boys’ Club for 2012-2013. Stay tuned for more information, but there will be 2nd and 3rd grade groups at Edison this year. (More chapters are always encouraged. Contact me if you want help starting one.)
We will meet every other Tuesday this fall, starting with September 18th (and 10/2, 10/16, 10/30, 11/13, 11/27, and 12/11).
Possible activities for this term include: making bows and arrows (safe ones), experimenting with solar radiation, creating spy kits, basket weaving, going on nature scavenger hunts, bridge building contests, racing balloon powered cars, Lego challenges, DIY team competition geo-caching, a holiday gift project, and a community service activity. We’ll also do one “big” activity (a.k.a., expensive) such as rock climbing, a ropes course, or sand boarding!
More info coming in the next few days, but make sure to save those dates on your sons’ calendars now.
Many of the boys have been wanting to do a construction project of some sort, and I agreed it would be an excellent idea to introduce them to some tools with a tangible outcome. The trick was to figure out what we could accomplish with a dozen or so boys in less than two hours time that they could all take home. We thought about making our own version of this cool window view bird house. I also toyed with the idea of making a couple bat houses for the group that we could then get permission to put up at their school or the park. We could have someone come and talk to us about bats and their important ecological role. But that was more than we could tackle at this time.
Then my father came and decided to build a go-cart with my son and we temporarily thought we might have the boys work together on a second one so we could race. The boys seem interested in that, so we might try it again in the future, after Grandpa Hughes has his revised his prototype.
In the end we decided to make stilts. I liked the fact that each boy could take home something and that they would be able to practice an activity with them that presumably, none of them were masters at yet.
It was a simple project and we had lots of grown up helpers (6:13) to boys (not counting toddlers), so it was very doable in our allotted two hours. That made for a relaxed and fun environment. I’m glad that we didn’t try to cram more in (in my typical style). This way the boys had plenty of time to try them out.
Thanks to Michael, Cary, Kelley, Sonya, and Caitlin for making the afternoon possible. Some of us were daydreaming about the boys walking on stilts in the Eugene Celebration parade next fall. They’d better start practicing.
It’s been forever since I updated our blog. Sorry to have kept you waiting for new installments of boy adventures, but my goodness have we been having some. In mid-may we had our first experience geo-caching. If you haven’t done it, you can find out more on the official website. The boys loved it and definitely want to try it again.
Thanks to Kendra, who scouted out the neighborhood for good geocaches, the boys were able to uncover four secret hiding places. We attempted a fifth in University Park, near the wading pool, but despite an excellent effort, we never managed to discover it, which was very frustrating as people on the website reported having found it recently (and easily).
What I personally loved about the experience was the way that it added a mysterious layer onto what I thought was our very familiar neighborhood. Turns out there has been a geocache right in the alley behind our house for a couple of years. I walk past the spot multiple times a week, but never realized I was walking past something significant. It reminded me of the portkeys in the Harry Potter series. Ordinary places and things with secret meaning attached to them. Just like the muggles who can walk past portkeys in the novels and not realize that piece of rubbish can magically transport wizards to another place, we found secret little canisters and even snail shells that held lists of other people who had been on parallel adventures over the years. Every since we went hunting for the geocaches I’ve been looking with new eyes at the places around me. Where would be a cool hiding place around here, I keep thinking.
Our meanderings took us on a nearly 2 mile loop of the neighborhood. It’s a sneaky way to get kids to exercise, since they don’t even realize they are walking so far when on an adventure.
The GPS element is fun, and of course the boys loved taking turns holding the phone to determine which way to go next, but I also think it would be cool to do this activity again just with our boys in an old-fashioned sort of way. I’m imagining a two-part activity. The first week we would split into two teams and hide a series of caches. We would write out specific directions (street names, yards NSEW, etc.) as well as context clues (under something heavy or where moss might grow). Then for the next meeting the two teams would go out again to try and find the other teams caches. I like the idea of having them work with their mapping skills, and I think they might refine those skills better this way then with the GPS, but either way, I think we’ll be doing this again.
Last fall when the boys were brainstorming all the different types of things they would like to do in our Daring Boys Club, they brought up learning about electricity. Later I saw this fabulous experiment idea called Squishy Circuits from The University of St. Thomas on Pinterest and knew we had to give it a try with our boys.
Our boys were a little wild last week when we got together. It would have been a better day for relay races in the park or something given their mood, but given a 90% chance of rain and the soggy outdoors left from weeks and weeks worth of previous rainy days, I thought we’d better opt for another indoor activity. They had fun being together, but I question whether I did the right thing by proceeding with our science experiments when they were so rambunctious. Should I have just put it aside and switched gears mid-gathering? It wouldn’t have been such a bad thing. Lesson learned: Have an easy big-muscle outdoor back-up plan for when the sun unexpectedly comes out after long spells of rain. AND don’t be afraid to use it!
Anyhow, after our traditional opening circle, I showed the boys the two different kinds of play dough I had prepared and had them observe what was similar and different about each of them. One boy quickly deduced that one seemed like regular play dough and the other seemed more like cookie dough. Indeed, where the regular play dough is made with flour, cream of tartar, and salt, water, and oil, the “cookie dough” play dough uses flour, distilled water, sugar, and oil instead. (Get complete recipes for the dough on the UST website.) But before we could really understand conductive vs. insulating, we had to have a crash course in the basics of electricity (excuse our very elementary descriptions of the phenomenon):
After a little bit more explanation of circuits and what we were going to do, we put the boys in pairs and gave them the two kinds of dough, a battery pack, 4 AA batteries, and a handful of LED lights and set them off to see if they could make a circuit.
Here are the Electricity for Daring Boys handouts with information straight from UST (just reformatted).
I should have taken the itty bitty screws out of the battery packs before starting. That was a frustrating start with only one tiny screwdriver and five pairs and stripped (how?) screws. Then of course the Daring Toddler Brother had to choose that moment to wake up from his nap as well. Just putting the batteries in the 4-packs was good experience for the boys. Most didn’t know how to follow the directions for position the positive and negative sides. And we learned a new handy tip from Caitlin. How to unscrew a stripped screw? Stretch a wide rubber band between the screw and the screwdriver. She’s so clever!
It took the boys awhile to build a simple working circuit. They had to get the batteries in right, the positive and negative ends of the LEDs in the right play dough and the positive and negative ends of the battery pack in correctly too. It would have helped if they had looked at the pictures on the handouts, but they were too busy to bother with that (oh boys!).
I would recommend to anyone else trying to do this activity to go ahead and get the kit from the University of St. Thomas available on their squishy circuits site. I of course was preparing this too last-minute so I tried to purchase supplies myself from Radio Shack, thinking I could save a little money. I still spent over $50 and didn’t get motors that worked (even going back and exchanging after an initial experiment before the boys came). So we were not successful with getting our motors to work. They worked attached to the battery directly, just not through the conductive dough.
We gave up on the motors and worked on trying to build our own squishy battery by putting together alternating types of dough and using galvanized nails and copper wire. (Again, the directions are on the UST website.) We think we got a battery that measured about 1.2 volts. (The voltmeter was fluctuating all over the place, so it was really hard to tell if it measured anything at all.) We tried to add cells to the battery to bring it up to 1.9 volts, in hopes of lighting up the lowest voltage LED I could find, but it didn’t light up. I would like to try this one again with a little bit more of a precise touch that my 8 year-old-boys just didn’t have. It would be cool just to show them if I could get one to work.
We wrapped up the gathering with a brief discussion about volts, watts, and amperage (which thanks to my husband I finally understand fully for the first time in my life). Here’s how I explained it to the boys:
We talked about the difference in wattage between a spark of static electricity that shocks you and the electricity in a battery or 100 volt electrical outlet. It’s not just voltage alone that’s important, but amperage. That’s why the shock doesn’t do anything more than startle you despite being much higher voltage than an electrical socket. It’s like a grain of sand’s worth of electricity coming at you rather than a bowling ball or a mist vs. a flash flood.
I challenged the boys to report back to me with answer to two other questions, and if they did so, they’d win some small electricity-related prize:
Lastly, when I was at Radio Shack, I discovered that they have DIY great projects. There was a make you own flashlight recommended for kids ages 12 and up featured this month. Check out their website for other DIY projects. Unfortunately, it’s not sortable by age, so it might take awhile to find one right for your Daring Boy (or girl).
When I was first thinking of projects for the Daring Boys’ Club a year ago, I came across a hula hoop rug weaving idea in Family Fun Magazine that I thought would be really fun, but it called for a hula hoop and about a dozen old t-shirts for each rug. How are we ever going to come up with a dozen old t-shirts per boy I thought? And where will I get the hula hoops?
Well, I decided to ask St. Vincent DePaul’s what they did with donations of t-shirts that weren’t good enough to resell, and if they would be willing to donate some to us. It turns out (not surprisingly since they are known as excellent recyclers around here), that they have a market for them. They get sold by weight and turned into rags or shredded for filler for other things. Even so, they were willing to give us about 150 adult-sized solid color t-shirts for our project, two enormous plastic bags full of shirts (which then I had to find a place to store at home for awhile, but whatever).
My other problem was hula hoops. The boys in the DBC didn’t have enough of their own. The only hula hoops I could find in town or on line were about $7 a piece. That’s more than I wanted to spend. I thought about asking to borrow or rent from our school PE supply or a gymnastics studio, but was concerned that we might not be able to return them in a timely fashion. Then as I thought about it more I decided there must be a better way than hula hoops anyhow. Really, wouldn’t it be cooler if like the t-shirts, the loom was a recycled product as well? And come to think of it, who wants a round rug? Where are the boys going to put that? A small rectangular rug would be much more useful and versatile. So I decided to see if we could use the same concept from the hula hoop rug and make rectangular rugs on 2′x3′ looms made of used PVC pipe. I went to Bring Recycling and scavenged through the outdoor scrapyard to find cast-off old PVC pipe from who knows what old projects. I have to say, it wasn’t the most fun, I was there with my 4-year-old and 1-year-old in the rain and the pipe was dirty, which turned everything about the project to a muddy mess. However, the satisfaction from knowing that I got scraps of 3/4″ PVC pipe totaling over 120 feet and nearly 50 elbows all for about $20, AND that I both saved that pipe from the landfill and prevented new PVC from being produced, made the little bit of mud well worth it. (PVC is pretty awful stuff from an environmental perspective, so the less of it on the planet the better. Need convincing, see the documentary Blue Vinyl, but I digress.)
So the weaving is really simple.
Cut loops out of the bottom parts of t-shirts (from the hem up to the armpits). It’s best to cut off the hem and then cut strips from there. We used 2″ strips. (The strips become “loops” because you’re cutting through the back and the front at the same time). I found that it takes about 4 large t-shirts to get about 30 loops. I advised the boys to have two different colors for these warp loops, to make the weaving easier.
Now of course, this went well enough on my sample rug, but what we discovered while having the boys do this is that not all the t-shirts that had been cut for them were big enough to stretch across this 3′ span of the loom. So we had to improvise. When that happened, we put two loops together and cut the ends and then tied it on to the frame. That will work. It’s not quite as smooth, but these are 8 year-old boys we’re talking about. They seemed fine with it.
This first step of the process took awhile, especially when we discovered that not all the loops would stretch across. I’m very glad we had 4 grown-ups present. The boys needed plenty of support. It was a little stressful there for awhile with everyone needing something different and at a different point in the process. Thank goodness we had them bring their loops pre-cut (and thanks to the family members who cut all those loops). If we had tried to do the cutting there for all the boys, it wouldn’t have worked.
Eventually though, they were all ready to start weaving with the weft loops. You take one loose loop and attach it to the outermost warp loop a few inches from the end of the frame. (You need to leave enough room to cut and tie the fringe at the end.) Then you just start weaving that loop over and under the warp loops, turning around at the other end and starting back the other direction. I used an old wire dry-cleaner type hanger (more re-use, yeah!) that I stretched out and squeezed together to be a shuttle. I wove the hanger (rounded end first) and then pulled the weft loop through (using the hook of the hanger). I found this much easier and more efficient than using my hands. Most of the boys chose not to use a shuttle though and preferred to weave with just their hands. When you get to the end of one weft loop, you just attach the next one to it, regardless of where you are.
The sweetest part of the experience came when all the boys were finally to this stage of the weaving process. The stress level in the house went down significantly, they stopped wandering about, and they just started weaving. After the first couple runs across the warp loops, it’s pretty monotonous. That freed them up to start talking about other things while they were working (movies, and jokes mostly). It was like a “stich and b**” session for 8 year-old boys. Pretty cute.
We didn’t get done in 2 hours, but the boys were all very enthusiastic about their projects. They didn’t want to wait to finish them at another gathering. They wanted to take them home and finish them that evening. Some did, and of course some got sidetracked, but that’s to be expected.
To finish the rug, you stop weaving with a few inches to spare. You tie off whatever portion of a weft loop you have left onto the outermost warp loop. Then cut the excess. Now, cut off two warp loops at a time from the frame. You want to cut them equally, so it’s best to stretch the loop a little past the frame and cut it up there. Tie each of the warp loops to a warp loop next to it so that you are tying across the last weft line and holding it in place. This sounds so complicated in words, but it’s very intuitive and simple when it’s in your hands. Do this with all the warp loops on both ends to create the fringe on the rug.
I feel like one of the best aspects of this project for our Daring Boys is that they were very enthusiastic about what in other settings might have felt too girly for them. We have a wide variety of boys in our group, but they are by and large, typical boys. They like sports, jokes, and being ACTIVE. If this was a co-ed activity with multiple options, I wouldn’t have been surprised if many of them had left this to the girls. But the context of our Daring Boys’ Club allows them to try all sorts of different things, from rock climbing to weaving. They were excited about doing this project for several months every since I had a little potholder loom out at a gathering in December and they all wanted to use it. I’m glad we gave them this opportunity.
We were supposed to meet on Wednesday 3/21, but we all woke up to this:
The early spring storm was the biggest dump of snow we’ve had in years. It was heavy and wet and wreaked havoc on all the trees in town. There certainly wasn’t school that day (or even the next) and so with too many Daring Boys not able to attend our afternoon meeting, we postponed it until April 4th after spring break. Helpful family members have already cut up dozens of tshirts for our weaving project and the boys are excited to do it, so it will happen soon enough. Stay tuned. Here’s a sneak peak of what we’re making. (Though surprisingly none of them chose pink and purple like I did for my sample rug.)