Monster challenge – paving the way to design thinking and engineering

Half way through summer vacation and I feel like it has been another school year where I am the teacher. I had stopped drinking coffee a while ago, but vacation is not helping out with my resolution. Creativity is also fatigue, unless you take a break from it. And this has been our most intensely creative vacation, Friboy wants to create and build stuff every day, we even did it while vacationing in Latvia.

We got him a vacation passport with many creative activities, he loves Hubert Audriaz’s workshops and I must say I am also impressed with how well organized everything is. I particularly love the Werkhof, a large hall-like workshop in the old district of Fribourg.

Hubert Audriaz creative workshops for Passport Vacances

His favorite activity at home has been our monster challenge, an idea which came to me a while ago when he started to lose interest in drawing and I was trying to encourage him to find other ways to derive pleasure out of this activity.  I started doodling monster figures without asking him to participate which made him very curious…and when I asked him if he can design a monster that is scarier than mine, he wouldn’t put the pencil down. We have been battling monsters ever-since, at home, on vacation, in the airport, on a boat or in the middle of a forest.

Our first monster doodles, I’d love to paint them on glass
Monster challenge takes places anywhere, I always have art supplies with me

Like with our stuffed toys, this idea has been profitable in many ways, the most important being the fact that he loves to design stuff and make it real. He wanted to make a puppet with mobile joints out of one of the monsters he drew, so he transferred the design on cardboard, cut the body pieces separately and reattached them using cotton string.

Imagining and building his own creatures, all the diy toys he’s been making, the Lego WeDo robotics workshop he did at the Fribourg Uni (which I will write about in a different blog post) are not just activities to fill his time. From my point of view, these creative practices are paving the way to developing the so called designing thinking and engineering, abilities which from my own engineer perspective are best to be capitalized at an early age. Kids are born engineers and the earlier a child is allowed the freedom to safely and ethically explore and create his own play instruments, the easier it will be to access, appropriate and create future technologies that shape our world in the same safe and ethical way.

Our next steps (more for me at this point, because I also have to learn) are using Scratch programming language and Raspberry PI board computers to take our monster challenge to the next level. Although I studied engineering,  control systems and computer science, I could have very well majored in philosophy because, the rhythm of tech development these days is too fast to keep up with. I feel it is essential that children learn to appropriate an ethical tech mindset as early as possible so they learn to create compassionate technology.

My summer reading list

If you are a parent or a teacher and have used these technologies with your children, please do not hesitate to share your experience.

 

 

 

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