Social Entrepreneurship for Ages 10 and Up!

Who Knows What We are Capable Of Together?

 

The Social Entrepreneurship Program is not a class in any conventional way. In the truest sense, this is experiential, hands-on learning-by-doing, and is closer to real-life, grassroots community organizing than an academic how-to course .

We will working on large scale, real world projects, founded, designed and run by kid 10 years old and older. Keeping with our child-lead approach to learning, we are not simply placing kids into nominal volunteer positions for existing events planned by adults, rather kids will do the planning and decision making themselves. We will not be asking parents to fund projects for us through bake sales or other events, but will work on developing sustainable fundraising strategies of our own as necessary. This is more than a program, it is a start-up, or a a pop-up with heart . . .  it is activism in action.

As all organizers know, this means that some projects may not be completed as planned. Or some may start with one group of kids (or one single kid), and be completed by others that join up as the project grows . . . its not just like real life, it is real life.

Because of the nature of the Social Entrepreneurship projects, there will be no set meeting time for project groups. Rather, each working group will meet roughly once a week at the Lab (or other places if necessary) at times that are convenient for everyone based on the availability of group members. There will also be some amount of work to be completed at home between meeting times. Participants may also decide to form email groups, or other on-line communication channels to exchange information between meetings.

Two current Social Entrepreneurship projects: A community festival themed on all thing Pokemon, and a weekly Minecraft club. Each project required kids to seek sponsorship, recruit volunteers, and collaborate with peers to reach consensus

Children 10 years old and older (this is a great opportunity for teens!) can begin their own project with their own ideas, or may join an existing group; and small groups with big ideas are welcome to sign up together. Enrollment will be on-going throughout the year, and may encompass simultaneous on-going projects.

Participants in the program are asked for an initial 10 week commitment, and may continue with their chosen project on a month by month basis thereafter for the equivalent of monthly membership dues. It may be the goal of some projects to generate revenue so that children can pay for their own dues. And when appropriate, stipends for group members may be available.

In each project, we will emphasize the process of consensus building, and all projects will be decided on, designed, and implemented under the guidance of trained adults.

For more information on the program, to inquire about existing projects, or to begin the enrollment process with a free project consultation meeting, contact Efrim Chiavetta, Lab Director and Social Entrepreneurship Program Coordinator.

Let’s see just what we are capable of when we work together, I cannot wait to see what we come up with!

Efrim’s Blog # 1

Everything I know About Early Childhood Education, I learned with Wooden Blocks, Part 1:

“One Simple Tip for Making Transition Times Easier. . .

for Everyone”

By Efrim Chiavetta

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Introduction

Ok, so not everything, of course, but, aside from the clear value they have in developing children’s motor skills, supporting imaginative play, and providing lots of opportunities for creative problem solving and frustration tolerance, there is also much to be learned by adults from observing how children use the classic wooden unit block. And, as adults, we can pick up a trick or two from them ourselves.

Next to the stick or the empty cardboard box, unit blocks are about the simplest, most straightforward children’s toy you can find, and I am often amazed at the strange feats of balance, or complicated moments of symmetry that children achieve with them. And like these surprising structures that children build, some of the lessons we grown-ups can take away from using blocks as a parenting tool can also be quite elegant, and at times even sophisticated and nuanced.

For example, the way children use blocks can help indicate the developmental stage they are in, and which they are moving towards. They can highlight skills that are emerging, and those that a child is still practicing. The dramatic scenarios they give rise to can reveal our kids’ interests, passions and questions. And they often set the stage for the shift from parallel to cooperative play in preschoolers.

Over the course of the next several months, I will touch on each of these topics. Here, however I would like to share what I have learned about helping children (and ourselves) through the often tricky moment of transition.

Tell Me If This Sounds Familiar

It’s bed time . . . or time for dinner, or to walk out the door to make it to a party on time, or to leave for school, or leave school . . . and your child, looking to you from the project they are building (or painting, or cooking, or drawing ), and in their most earnest, pl aintive voice asks for “just one more minute . . . pleeeeeaaassse?!”

No problem. You are, after all, informed in the art of negotiation. You recognize that a willingness to engage your child in series of give-and-takes now will provide them with a sense of autonomy that will serve them well as self-directed adults in the future.

Easy-peezy. You can, when necessary, manage the delicate practice of reframing. You reposition yourself to see the more challenging aspects of your child’s temperament in positive terms. They are not contrary and obstinate, but rather spirited, a natural leader.

They are not stubborn, but possess the stick-to-it attitude needed to make it through life’s inevitable obstacles.

Like cake. You recognize that there is no such thing as “bad behaviour,” only expressions of unmet needs.

I am being a little glib here, but I am not making light. These are all wonderfully effective parenting tools, and each illustrates a deep respect for the child. And it is this deep respect, perhaps more than anything else, that we want children to take away and internalize from these interactions and practices.

Right now, however, the particular obstacle life has thrown your way is your child’s unwillingness to break play so that you may successfully steer the ship of family smoothly to its next port of destination. So you ask some variation of “what do you need to do to complete what you are doing?” or, “How many more minutes do you think you will need to finish and be ready?”

Undoubtedly, this often works. But, as we all know, you may receive an answer that is simply untenable, “I will never be ready, I am going to stay here forever.” Or the child may pay lip service, telling you they are almost done, but continue to work away indefinitely. Or they may simply not respond at all.

The specifics may shift, but as an early childhood educator, I have lived some rendition this scenario hundreds of times, often many times a day, and I have found one simple method of helping both myself and children make it through these moments of reticence that works for each of us equally.

“Work is Play, and Play is Work”

img_0342This quote from one of our Lab kids, Age 8, sums up perfectly our approach to children. The work of childhood is play. It is how they create, form relationships, learn the limits of their own bodies, build the language of social interaction, and develop the skills they will use the rest of their life, even once play is, ostensibly at least, separated from the work they will do as adults.

Very often, when a child expresses reticence at leaving a current project, it is less about an unwillingness to move to whatever comes next, or simply because they are having too much fun – though these are valid reasons in themselves, from the child’s perspective. When we ask children to break play for transitions, we recognize that we are asking them to interrupt the very work of childhood, the very process by which new skills and information is encoded in the body and brain.

For children however, play is valued, purely and simply, as play, for its own sake, and it can be for us also.

When it comes to transitions then, we are tasked with finding a way to demonstrate that the play we are limiting is valued, not for the lessons it teaches, or the passion it elicits in our children (though these are important also), but valued in-an-of-itself, as the child sees it.

Back to Those Blocks

Block structures are, by nature, temporary, fragile, and, to many children, all too fleeting creations. After observing children in play with blocks for years, I have noticed that when it is time to clean up, to leave the house or school, or when there is a lot of potential for structures to be knocked over by other play, children may become anxious or frustrated about this, but lack the language to say so. And I have also observed that adults often misread this.

One of the easiest ways I have found to assuage this anxiety is to offer to take a picture of their project.

Photographs allow children to relive and remember through representation the experience of building. Once the picture is taken, they know they can show their friends or other family members once it gets cleaned up. Or that they can rebuild it if necessary if it gets topled.

When it comes time to transition out of play, by offering children a form of longevity for their projects, we provide a sense of safety and connection to the project we are asking them to separate from. I have found that this technique is more often than not met with enthusiasm and willingness to move forward with what comes next. Even if the photos are never used, they help to bring closure, and a lasting sense of value and perpetuity to a project they are invested in.

Transition Time Tip

This method, of course, is not limited to block play, or other transitory kinds of physical structures, such as Legos, Magna-tiles etc, or even more permanant kinds, like drawings and painting. Plan ahead, and try to come up with variations to match different activities.

As an educator, I often offer children the option to write letters or draw pictures for Mom or Dad during difficult separations. This can work with peers also. When it is time to leave a play date, set aside a time before bed or dinner for writing a letter to the friend your child is saying goodbye to. Or maybe you have an avid reader that finds it hard to put down their book when it is time to get some shopping done? Smart phones make it easy for children to dictate stories, allowing children to come up with their own endings to the chapter they are reading in the car ride to the grocery store.

Be creative, however you choose to demonstrate to a child that their play is valued on their own terms, will help that child move on from that play when it is time.

What has worked for you? Leave a comment, or start a conversation on our Facebook page and let us know!

Efrim is The Lab’s Director of Operations, you can read is bio here.

 

Let Them Play

Science Saturdays

imageScience and Play

Using white powders and clear liquids, we asked asked children to predict what would happen when they were mixed together and to try to identify them based on their reactions together. This was the last day in a six day series of messy, kitchen chemistry in which we made glitter slime, scented home made play doh with natural herbs, and layered liquids of differing densities to create bottles full of rainbow colors. This activity built on the skills practiced and information gathered on the other days, and allowed children the opportunity to put the scientific method to the test. It was interesting to see the older children asking for instructions, while the younger ones dove into a fun, messy, sensory experience.

Join us every Saturday from 10-12 and 1-3, beginning in March for Science Saturtadys, where we explore the world of science using materials and experiences from everyday life. 

Is is a little intimidating to do science with you children? Every first Saturday of the month, as part of the monthly I Heart Eagle Rock Art Walk, join us at The LAB with your child and let The LAB introduce methods and ideas to help you bring science activities into your home every day.

To find out more about I Heart Eagle Rock, visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WeHeartEagleRock/

Introducing Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, Architecture Muse for December/January

imageAfter watching our kids throw blankets over large play blocks and calling it a castle, or closing themselves up in cardboard boxes as their secrete hide-outs, we have followed their lead and made Vitruvius our muse for the upcoming month. Marcus Vitruvius Pollio was a Roman author and civil engineer, responsible for defining Architecture as we think of it that day, with his ten volume De architectura, encompassing elements of engineering, landscaping, design, and what can be considered urban planning.

We will begin by trying to build model forts and castles that are impregnable to various kinds of attacks, then move on to skyscrapers, seeing how high we can build, and end with experiments with damns holding back water and bridges spanning hot lava.

Of course, along the way, we will be playing with all kinds of authentic building materials, and, well, power tools and earthquake machines.

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Extending Science Experiments Through Child Lead Play

imageimageFollowing the attempt to form sheet crystals that, well, did not turn out as planned, several children came to the LAB having considered what we could have done differently, and with a new set of predictions about what the results would be. Some of the new ingredients to be used in addition to the starter crystal were: corn, cheese, paprika, and water from mouth mixed with leaves. Some of the predictions of what these combinations would yield? A nicer version of some of the child’s friends, and “I don’t know.” When we allow children to lead us through the course of their learning, we, ourselves, often do not know where we will be lead.

– Efrim

What We Are Doing When We Do Experiments

Making Predictions

This week, under the spell of nature that this month’s Muse Andy Goldsworthy reminds us to never forget, we took the opportunity to appreciate some of nature’s most interesting forms by building some simple crystals together. We stared with a simple Epsom Salt and hot water solution, these crystals are easy to make, form quickly, and feature a dazzling array of color whe viewed under a microscope. The children began by making some predictions and painting pictures about what they thought the crystals would look like when they formed . . .

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Managing Expectations

We are not exactly sure why, but they ended up looking like this . . .

image Which lead to some really engaged conversations about the nature of the scientific method, what it feels like when things do not happen the way that we wanted or expected them to, and problem solving around what we can do different next time.

 

 

 

Making Observations

Between the hypothoses and the results, between expectation, curiosity, and wonder, there were some really beautiful moments that none of us could ignore nor have predicted along the way . . .

– Efrim
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