July 26, 2012

Innovation Days

Of course, the roofers decided to work the same days that the floor guys planned to put in our new porcelain tiles in the kitchen and dining area.  But, hey!  I'm not complaining.  Things are finally getting done.  The microwave guy (if you were following this story) finally called after another full week and said that he thought he had it working, tested it twice a day for 3 days, and just before he was going to bring it back, it didn't work again.  He said intermittent problems are the hardest to narrow down, which I totally understand, and that he had no idea when it would be finished.  I couldn't accept that, even though it wasn't his fault.  I just really, really, after month of waiting and working, am ready for the kitchen thing to be behind us.  So I called up Magic Chef and said enough is enough.  They finally agreed and cut me a check for a refund and called Darrell's Appliance and told them just to chuck the unit.  Hooray!  So we have a new new microwave that will hopefully work, a new roof going in as I type, and new floors going in, and all that's left is the window.  The window guy has failed to show up for the 3rd straight appointment, which makes me want to scream.  So my plan is just to call him up and say, "Clearly you don't need my business, but I need a window, so could you recommend someone else who does what you do, because you're the only guy in my phone book."  Surely he's aware of his competitors and could give me some names.  Is that rude?  I'm not sure what else to do.

The boys watching shingles fall from the sky.  Very exciting!

Anyway, with all of this commotion it was clear that the kids weren't going to be able to focus on school work, but I didn't want them to have a total brain break, so we're calling this period "Innovation Days."  They still have to do some reading, practice their instruments, and do their reflex math practice, but after than, it's innovation time.  It's been totally fun to watch.  They're calling their team the "Brain Cloud."  I give the Brain Cloud a random object and they come up with 25 ways to use it.  Hannah Jane mans the clipboard and they throw ideas out.  If someone challenges an idea, they give it a whirl to prove that it's legit.  If it's theoretical, they can make a sketch to try to convince the Brain Cloud of the merit of the idea.  

This first random object up for innovating was a hair rubber band.  In the above picture, Haven is demonstrating for the Brain Cloud how a rubber band could hold dresser drawers closed in an earthquake.  He was convincing, so it went on the list.  

Here's the list they came up with, bad spelling and all.  You probably need a decoder ring to read it.  Spelling is Hannah Jane's kryptonite, but with spell check in her future, I try not to fret too much over the fact that she can ace a every spelling test and still misspell the words in context.  My favorites items on the list are sling shot, handcuffs, noise maker, and something to hold your feet together (how did that one get past the Brain Cloud?).  Since this was our first go at real outside the box thinking, I was careful not to shoot down any ideas just because they made absolutely no sense.  Like using it to hang a mirror.  What!?!?  But whatever.  They were trying and it was surprisingly hard for them, so I wanted to encourage every idea so that they didn't just quit.  We're going to do a couple of these each day that the roof and floor people are here since it keeps them busy and thinking without me standing over them.  

Other than that, they have self guided investigation time.  They've re-watched a lecture out of Stanford called the Reality Behind Koko and the Signing Apes about what really defines language and how the whole Koko thing kind of fizzled and declined into a cute and cheesy public face for a scientifically debunked pop-science legend.  By the end he talks about a bonobo chimp named Kanzi that actually shows some real language development and may be the future of primate language studies.  The kids have googled Kanzi and they're trying to wrap their heads around what it is that Kanzi does that demonstrates actual language mastery versus what Koko and his pals (Chimpsky et al.) could do.  Was it just a matter of failure to document or set up controls?  Is Kanzi really doing something new?  I can tell by the way they're discussing this that they were listening in as Joe and I debated what language really is and what the hallmarks of true primate language really are as we ripped up linoleum after we put the kids to bed last night.  Joe, my adorable scientist husband, can rip apart the logic in a lecture faster that I can click pause.  Forget that it's a memorable lecture structure!  If they ever tiptoe over their original thesis to make a point, Joe catches it!  He's a whiz and very little impresses this guy.  So the kids picked up on his skepticism and have used it in their discussions today.

Right now they're taking a brain break (mostly to keep them out from underfoot while they lay new concrete subflooring in the kitchen) with a little Bearenstein Bears.  I can't wait to see what they decide to learn about next!

Here's to Innovation Days!  May they be fun and lead to a world changing idea!

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