As we all know, planning for the fall is like shooting at a moving target with a pile of sticks with no fletchings. Sometimes the target even disappears completely. Even so, while it is safe, we want to help.
Our working plan for the fall semester is to offer “camp” out of FSN on Mondays/Tuesdays and Thursdays/Fridays from 9 – 1. Camp would be mostly outside to help with germ containment, but we would have access to bathrooms, a sheltered overhang, and wifi, as well as an indoor space in emergencies.
Depending on our audience and their needs, our activities would be a mix of hiking, playing with robots, and help with schoolwork. As always, we roll with how people are feeling on any given day and don’t push our goals and agenda too hard when it’s clear we aren’t going to succeed.
The goal here is not to provide full day care or a school replacement, but to ease the burden on working parents. Presumably parents can split shifts with one working a bit earlier and the other later, and kiddos can keep themselves occupied for awhile in the afternoon.
If you’d like us to email you when we have some more solid plans, or if you’d like to help us figure out how best to serve you, please fill out this very quick survey.
One of the amazing features of the Raspberry Pi when it first came out was that it came with a free version of Minecraft that had the ability to be interacted with via Python. Players could place blocks and create functions to make elaborate structures.
Minecraft was then purchased by Microsoft. While it has grown in many ways, the free raspberry pi version ceased development. Luckily and Minecraft grew, so did the ability to mod it, or create APIs that allowed for scripts and players to change the ways the Minecraft world behaved.
One of the Mods that was developed was RaspberryJuice. With this mod and the mcpi python library, players who have access to the appropriate server can use python with Minecraft in ways that weren’t possible on the Pi. We run one of these servers at STEAM Lab as part of our Python in Minecraft class, but you can also set one up on your own computer.
Sometimes one of the hardest bits of learning to program is coming up with a project that really makes you want to learn. Being able to add your own touches to Minecraft by programming a turtle to create Mt. Vesuvius, making flowers bloom wherever you walk, or designing your own parkour course can create just this motivation.
Over the next few months, I’ll work on posting some of the content I’ve created for our class for those who would like to work through it at home on their own server. In the next post I’ll provide some links that demonstrate how to set up your server and install your python libraries.
I encourage you to think about signing your kiddo up for the class though. Our world is a truly beautiful mess of colored wool towers and parkour course as kiddos try out the new material. The weekly meetups turn into a bit of a python-less free-for-all of just playing and laughing, but I have office hours for answering all of their python questions.
The kids are playing a lot of Minecraft these-a-days and I don’t really blame them. It is engaging and creative and sometimes quite challenging for the brain. They learn spatial reasoning and problem solving.
But it is also, very often a social game. We wanted to encourage the social nature of Minecraft while respecting the need to be physically distant. With that we’ve got four separate weekly meetups planned for June.
Each of these meetups includes access to a shared server for the entire month, a weekly two-hour supervised voice chat, and access to a Google Classroom for sharing ideas or planning additional time online together.
This class is held on Tuesdays from 3pm-5pm and is meant for kiddos who play Minecraft on a tablet. Get together and build amazing things and show them off to each other!
This class is held Mondays from 1pm -3pm and is a place for kiddos to collaborate and show off their amazing Redstone creations and other automations. It will also include weekly video tutorials to teach and inspire. This class uses the computer edition of Minecraft.
This class is held on Thursdays from 3pm-5pm and requires the computer edition of Minecraft. Survival is what it is all about. In this groups kids will truly have to mine for their materials and craft their tools. This group is collaborative and kids work really hard to keep their village safe while showing off their style.
This class is held on Wednesdays from 1pm-3pm and requires Minecraft on a tablet (no consoles). Just like our Java version, kiddos will collaborate to conquer their world and defeat monsters.
Because sometimes it is hard when your older siblings get to have all the fun! This class is specifically meant for the 4 and 5 year old set. We’ll play twice a week for an hour at a time. Kiddos will need Minecraft on a tablet. As of this post, the class is almost full, but we’ll make another section if you tell Lis you are interested.
In this class kiddos will learn how to program in Python. When they run their scripts they’ll see the results on our Minecraft server! Lis will create YouTube tutorials for different concepts. We’ll discuss ideas in the Google Classroom. Once a week we’ll get together to show off and inspire each other.
Heading into summer with covid still in the air I see two reasonable options for how we could proceed.
The decision to continue to offer summer camp this summer is not a light one and it will come with some changes to our plans.
Our camp is for any kiddo entering elementary school next year. Campers must be able to take care of their own personal needs and be able to hike a couple of miles a day.
According to the current plan by the governor we should be able to open half-day camp on May 15th. We’re taking names for this camp, so please contact us if you are interested.
We’re also working on being deemed essential, so that if things close back down we can keep offering camp for essential workers. If we need to close or you are not an essential worker, we’ll offer refunds for any missed weeks of camp.
Please talk to us about any concerns you may have and we will work with you.
Sign up for camp here: https://lasteamlab.com/event/summer-camp-june/
I’ve found a few more resources that are only available to schools and two of them specifically work with Google Classroom. Because of this I have finally created a Google Classroom account for STEAM Lab.
Go to Google Classroom and log in with a non-school google account. Click on the (+) in the upper right corner to join a class and enter the code:
ifbjps2 That’s it! You can see an organized view of resources by clicking on the Classwork Tab. On the lefthand side you will see various class topics. This is where I have arranged complete courses, bonus material, and different curated resources.
Computer Science 100 is a class aimed at 3rd – 5th grades. It uses block based coding to solve simple puzzles. I would guess that it is appropriate for any comfortable reader and would be frustratingly tedious for a fifth grader with any programming knowledge. This would be a great class for a kiddo who wants to learn block based coding and isn’t comfortable diving in.
Tynker puts out free Weekly Challenges that are puzzles to solve with a tutorial. They each require 30-60 minutes of work and appeal to a broader audience. They generally use block-based coding and allow for extension.
CS First is Google’s free coding curriculum. Assignments range in size and complexity from an hour to 15-20 hours. Scratch (the original and free block based coding developed by MIT) is used for all of the coding, but CS First gives structure to what can be a very intimidating platform. Some children love a blank canvas. Others like a jumping point and CS First provides this in a very robust way.
I’ll toss up all of the hourly assignments first and then curate some of the longer ones as I see where kiddos interests lie. The fun thing about google classroom is that it can provide a way for kiddos to share their creations and get feedback (from me and others).
I like these classes enough that I may offer a more formal version of one or two of them with class discussions, so keep your eye out for that!
Wonder Workshop (home of Dash and Dot) is rolling out its new robot simulator early due to our looong summer vacation. I’ve been given early access and will be able to set up a classroom for that soon.
In the meantime, they’ve made class connect available for connection from home, so I’ve created a class. If kids get stuck working through the puzzles with their own Dash and Dot, or one of our rentals, I can see what’s going on and help them out. I’ve put all of that info into Google Classroom so that we have a way to communicate.
Wonder Workshop is also going to be adding weekly programming challenges for kids to complete with the chance to win prizes. I will be keeping track of kids who would like some help with this in Google Classroom as well.
I’ll be adding instructions for signing up for Code Combat and any other resources that come my way. I’ll also be linking my Scratch and Inkscape YouTube videos, but not more questionably educational videos such as my daughter’s Minecraft tutorials.
Let me know if there’s anything else we can do to keep your kiddo thinking and engaged during this interesting time.
This book guys! It is soooo good. A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat is set in a magical Thailand and stars two children raised in a women’s prison and the daughter of the warden. There is so much complexity that I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will give you a rundown on the main players.
In Chattana the light shines on the worthy. The governor came from the dark to save a town burned to ashes by the great fire. He has the magical ability to create balls of light that also serve as electricity for powering the town. He is a demagogue who can do no wrong.
Pong and Somkit are two boys raised in the women’s prison guilty of being born to criminals. They are branded as such and will only have their brands crossed out (not removed) when they reach thirteen and are released. After a fateful meeting with the governor, Pong can no longer wait and rashly makes an escape that will force him to hide for the rest of his life.
Nok is the warden’s daughter and tries to be the perfect child. Light shines on the worthy and she *will* be worthy. She does not understand how a child as well cared for as Pong could shun what he has been given. She is determined to track down this boy who ignores the law.
Father Cham is a kind soul in a quiet monastery. He sees the good hearts of all and bestows small but meaningful blessings on the children of the village. “May you never stub your toe in the dark.” He provides an education for the unwanted children of Chattana.
Auntie Ampai is the heart of the broken East Side of Chattana. Light shines on the worthy and the east side only has the dimmest of light orbs. Ampai gives the east side faith and heart and shows the downtrodden that they have value and that honor can shine anywhere.
This book is sooo rich. It is diverse in its setting and rich in culture. At the same time it dives deep into philosophical questions of power-dynamics and what it means to be worthy. Every single character grows and changes throughout the book. There are no villains and heroes, simply ordinary people put into extraordinary positions.
I will happily hand this book off to my 3rd and 5th graders to read. One will likely learn about another culture and have her deep sense of social justice beaten up a bit. The other will dive deeper into the world and think about the book’s lessons for the rest of her life. There is really no mature content to worry about.
We’ve been doing a lot of updates on Facebook, but I didn’t want to leave out my blog readers completely. As I’m sure everyone is aware, we are closed for the immediate future. Even so, we’re trying to take some of our programming online to help keep kids engaged at home.
I’m also working on learning how to do some 2D game design in Unity and whatever else I may get excited about.
We are also putting up Lego and Minecraft challenges on Facebook twice a week. Kids post their creations and are encouraged to comment on other people’s work.
Rachel has hopes of creating a Minecraft Book Club as well as a story chain, so keep an eye out for those offerings. If you have need of individual tutoring for your kiddos, we may have some high school students who can rise to the occasion.
When the stay at home order completes we may offer outdoor half-day camps. Each camp will be restricted to five families to minimize risk. There will be hiking, engineering, and lots of play.
CodeCombat is one of the many organizations offering free content for the duration of the school year. We applied for school licenses for them and received them. We have two classes set up and kids should be able to work pretty independently. We may set up a weekly zoom to check in with kiddos.
Our rental program is still around and I encourage you to take full advantage of it. We’ve added a few items, such as sewing machines and our Cricut Maker. We have a few bots not listed as they aren’t normally available, so feel free to ask if you want something specific.
*plus some non-mammals
This year we will be participating in March Mammal Madness. This is a yearly bracketed contest to see which animals would win out in a [hypothetical] tournament style combat.
The idea is to give kiddos a chance to research the offensive and defensive traits of a series of animals and to think about the circumstances that might lead one to winning.
The folks behind the organization create realistic scenarios and probabilities for the outcome of those scenarios. From there, they roll the proverbial dice to determine outcomes and winners. Not all matches are to the death either. A well fed predator may choose to forfeit a round rather than risking an injury.
So get your kiddos researching these animals. We’ll be posting fact sheets up around STEAM Lab and encouraging kiddos to make their own brackets. Adults can participate, too! We’ll hand out a free month membership to the winner if we get at least 10 participants.
You can find your 2020 bracket at Mammals Suck … Milk.
We are currently looking for the right people for a few positions.
Tutors: We are in need of a supply of after school tutors as our Beast Academy Math program grows and we add homework help and reading tutoring. This is a great job for a high school student and can be flexible (adults welcome, too). We have immediate need for someone on Wednesdays from 1pm – 2pm. Pay starts at $10/hr.
Spanish Speaking Tutor: We have immediate need for a Spanish speaker to help a few Middle and High School students who are not fluent in English. The students need help with math, English, science, and history. We will have someone on hand to help if the math gets tricky. Tutors would work 3 hrs a week and have a flexible schedule. Pay starts at $20/hr.
Summer Camp Coordinator: We are accepting resumes for a summer camp coordinator. This person would help oversee our Summer Camp so that we could extend it into July and August. They must have experience working with groups of children and work well with neuro-diverse kids. Pay starts at $20/hr.
Summer Camp Teachers: In addition to offering a free-form summer camp, we’d also like to offer some half-day enrichment classes. If you have a class idea that fits into the STEAM fields, come talk to us! Pay starts at $20/hr.
I have a pipe-dream of attaching a free tutoring and homework center to STEAM Lab where kiddos of all ages can come, get help with their homework, projects, or just concepts they’re struggling with. We’d hire high schoolers to offer assistance and have an adult supervisor for tougher questions and behavioral disputes.
After kiddos finished their homework then they’d get to head over to STEAM Lab and drop-in for free or at a discounted rate. We’d make the whole experience as fun as possible and maybe get Fleur de Lys or Ruby K’s to offer some $5 vouchers for kids who come in a certain number of times a month.
In order to make this possible, we’d need to rent additional space, hire tutors, a coordinator, etc. So in reality we need some sort of funding source or sponsor. If you have any ideas for us (keeping in mind that we are still and LLC and not a non-profit) we’d love to hear them.