Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Simple Wood Project for Kids

   Mike, a good friend of mine and a fellow science educator, also has a woodworking shop in his garage where he custom builds fine furniture. Just before Asher and Kate's recent visit I asked Mike to save a box of wood scraps for the kids. 
   We work together one day a week developing middle school science curriculum and on one of those days he brought me a nice box of wood scraps, just the right size for young hands. 
   I planned to pre-drill pilot holes in the blocks and let the kids hammer and nail together as many blocks as they needed to create a project originating from their imaginations.
   All that's needed are wood scraps in assorted sizes and shapes (no piece of scrap is unwanted as it might just be the perfect piece to fill out a construction project), an electric drill, a hammer, and a  box of 4D (1 1⁄2") nails.
    As you can see in these two photos, Asher, using both hands, has good control over his hammer and had no difficulty hammering nails straight into the wood.
    On the other hand, Kate thought the best hammering technique required that you first close your eyes and then swing the hammer. 
    Fortunately, we caught her in time and she too, controling the hammer with just one hand, was able to hammer the nails straight into each bock. This picture shows her working on her simple doorway arch.
    This is the Space Shuttle that Asher built.
    There wasn't time for Asher and Kate to paint each project so I put them away (along with the unused blocks) to save for their next visit. I'm also saving other odds and ends (such as cardboard tubes) so they can also glue shapes made of materials other than wood to a project.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


   The creative team at Amanita Design studios have partnered with story teller Jaromir Plachy and the 
Czech band DVA to bring us a great follow up to Machinarium, their critically acclaimed point-and-click robot adventure game. This new game is called Botanicula and features a huge cast of 'critters' all of which inhabit a tree.
   The tree is being attacked by black spider-like creatures (see above screen shot) and the story is the odyssey of a group of five of the tree's inhabitants, each with it's own special skill, and their attempt to thwart the evil doers.
    As is typical with Amanita Designs games, there is no dialogue. I find this ideal for youngsters as it gives them the chance to use their imagination to create the story dialogue from their perspective.
   With no dialogue driving the story, the five 'amigos' call out to be named and I've named each of the five as shown in this graphic. Kids will see these characters differently and name them accordingly.
   Not all of the critters that live in the tree are friendly to our five amigos. Some are just cranky and are relatively harmless but the spiders are to be avoided at all times.
  What I really enjoy most about the game is what I think my grandkids will also enjoy and that is the absence of 'adult' logic. We adults need to check our need for 'linear logic' at the opening screen and accept that the game is forcing us to think more like a child than like an adult. In other words, let go and 'go with flow'.
   The sound track is as free-wheeling as the game. Many different and unexpected sounds accompany the character animations and play in the background.
   Along every limb of the tree and in every dark corner there is an unanticipated surprise. But enough of this talk, look at the following video I made to introduce you to the game.

   I hope you enjoyed that short romp in search of a feather.
   If you would like to play the first level of the game in your browser or purchase the game, read on.
   To play through the first level of Botanicula in your browser, go to
and the Botanicula demo will load (sorry, no Ipads). You can download the full version from this site or you can visit where you can purchase and download both Botanicula and Machinarium. 
  To view other grandadscience posts on Amanita Designs games, see the archive section on the left side of the grandadscience blog. 
         The Questionaut—see October 2010
         Machinarium —see November 2009 
         Samorost I and Samorost II—(See Educational Computer Games.1) April 2009