Creativity, Design, Inspiration

Don’t Wait For The World To Whack It To You

I am tired. And I should be in bed. But I am reading my email because the tiny human, furry human, and loving husband are in bed and the house is quiet.

And just delivered from GapingVoid is this little gem, hot off the press:

Shine Your Light

It comes with this explanation from Hugh:

Instead of waiting to be hit by the light, I decided to become the light instead.

It was my decision.

It was also one of the happiest and most profound moments of my life.

To use a familiar tennis metaphor, you’re spiritually better off once you teach yourself to always keep the ball inside your own court. Don’t wait for the world to whack it to you. A-men.

~Hugh MacLeod

I have had a lot of work to do with my students pastorally the last few weeks. I think we have reached the tipping point and things are now on the rise.  I hope this is true.  One of the things that changed my outlook on the situation was when I stopped and remembered one of those lists that I had read once – you know, the “things that you need to remember to live a happy and fulfilled life” lists. It was this one.

And part of that list read:

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 11.56.20 PM

Never take things personally.  Let me repeat that: NEVER TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY.

I really started questioning what I was doing as a teacher – or more specifically, what I was (or wasn’t) doing that was resulting in the behavior I was seeing.  How had I gone wrong?  What had I done?  Why am I so terrible at what I am supposed to love doing?

Then I remembered #8 and I remembered #10 and I remembered that according to #7 the Universe (which at the time meant a very supportive and proactive Principal) had my back.  And I decided to take a different tack. I decided to be the light. I decided to take the ball instead of waiting to be whacked – repeatedly – in the head with it.

I did all these things and then Hugh, bless, made me my own cartoon to commemorate my somewhat disastrous but ultimately insightful week.



Awesome Website: Canva


I was introduced to a new (beta-stage) website that is a design platform for those who find programs like InDesign and Photoshop a little wieldy. It is called Canva.  It is free with email or Facebook signup and has loads of possibilities for school use – the most prominent being to provide students with templates that can be customized to produce really slick presentations, infographics, posters and more. Their blog has lots of design ideas and I personally found the site very intuitive and easy to use. A lot of the features are free but some of the more ‘premium’ graphics and backgrounds are available for purchase. 

The introduction came via a blog I follow, written by a woman with a passion for writing and a desire to see children flourish as writers. I have posted before about Patricia Zaballos and her Writers Workshop and I really enjoyed her take in her latest post on using tools such as Canva for students to create their own infographics as a way of representing the research they have done. Take a look at her full post here. 

In honor of Patricia, I used her blog to try out one of the templates:




Our current unit is on How We Express Ourselves and the different reasons Artists create art.  I want my kids to take a look at some TED talks that highlight different art forms so I then went ahead and made the following graphic to share with my class tomorrow.  Clicking on the names takes you to the website. 



Simple.  Beautiful. Worth your time. 

Go check it out! 


Creativity, Design

Build. Make. Hack. Grow.


I have posted previously on enabling creativity. One of the resources I mentioned was the DIY Website. It has been going for a while now and really, just keeps getting better.  In short, it is a place to be inspired and inspire others with the things you can build, make, hack, or grow. Which makes it perfect for those of us who have Genius Hour (or a derivative thereof in our classrooms) or are encouraging kids to pursue a passion (and shouldn’t that be all of us?).


One of the features I haven’t noticed before is the what’s trending ladder on the home page.  This shows the topics that are most popular amongst the DIY community.  Clicking on any of these terms will take you to see what others have been doing.

In addition to showcasing what you have made to an online community, you can earn badges for completing projects. The badges have a number of challenges and upon completion of three of the challenges you will get your badge. Here is a selection of badges most recently added:

Skills Badges

And here is a closer look at the ‘Maker’ badge and the challenges you can choose from.  The ‘tools’ section on the right will take you to web pages of information associated with the skill set you are looking at. The challenges (not in picture) come with information to guide you through the challenge.

Maker Skills


You can sign up for weekly emails from DIY.  On Saturday morning, they send out suggestions for three weekend projects and ask if you have any questions to reply to the email and they will get back to you.  I have been subscribing for a while and when we began our Energy unit at the beginning of the year, I was asking about alternative energy skill sets and they do email back! I have always found the DIY people to be really receptive to feedback and I am sure eager to answer questions from kids – again teaching them about seeing out information for themselves.  Here are examples of this week’s weekend projects:

As we begin our Exhibition unit on Monday, this will be another of the resources shared with my kids.  I am interested in seeing where it takes them in learning more about their passions.

Have you used this website with your kids? 

Creativity, Design, Innovation, PYP

It’s All In Your Attitude

Last week, I flew to the Netherlands for a meeting.  I travelled with United.  Somewhat notoriously known for poor or lack of service, I had very low expectations for my flights.  Both there and back, my expectations were wildly exceeded.  I wasn’t upgraded, the food was no better, the seats no wider or delivering more legroom – everything was ‘standard’ for the class of service I was flying.  The thing that was different, was the attitude of the flight attendants. Friendly, chatty, attentive, thoughtful, humorous, kind, inquisitive, helpful.  They were all fantastic.  So much so that I told them personally and sent a little shout-out to the group via the United contact page – I hope they were recognized by their supervisors!

It is amazing what a difference an attitude can make.  I think this is part of the reason why the attitudes are a part of a PYP Curriculum.


As teachers, we see a lot of attitude in our classrooms – some great, some less than stellar, but all interesting and pointing us toward a better understanding of our children.  Today, my kids explored Lego Education Simple and Motorized Mechanisms  set. For some, this was like entering the promised land.  It was Christmas, Easter, Birthdays – all rolled into one.  I saw kids bursting with appreciation that they had been given this fabulous opportunity to explore and create.  They were committed to pitching in and challenging themselves to succeed.  There was courage, cooperation, creativity, curiosity, empath, enthusiasm, independence, integrity, respect and tolerance all sandwiched in between a Lego-Palooza!

In addition to the curriculum skills in math, science and technology, I was loving seeing the development of the social skills and attitudes that went along with successful Lego construction.  Some kids struggled.  Some kids flourished.  Some wandered in between the two.  For some kids, this was their moment.  A chance for them to become the expert, the teacher, the go-to-genius, the one who only needed to look at the Lego and have it jump into formation!  For some kids, this was their nemesis.  The pieces wouldn’t fit, the instructions didn’t work, the whole thing was a hot mess.

So what did I do?  I observed.  I guided.  I looked for ways to invite students to help students. And I loved seeing the kids who find their challenges elsewhere, have a chance to shine and showcase their talents. This is what I love about my job.  I spend a lot of time researching the best “this” or the lastest “that” and I know some people might consider it all too much, not worthwhile.  To me, finding a balance in my classroom and opening up avenues of success to all students so that everyone gets a chance to be the superhero, is my job.  I know I haven’t done that for all of my kids yet – but I’m working on it!


How do you encourage an attitude of enthusiasm within your classroom?  How do you look for ways to serve the needs of all students?

Creativity, Design

The Ideas Will Be Bouncing Off the Walls – Literally!

For a little over a year, I have been a fan of IdeaPaint.  IdeaPaint is a dry erase paint that turns virtually any surface into an erasable canvas, giving you the space you need to collaborate, interact and fully explore your creativity. Popular for homes, businesses and schools, IdeaPaint opens up any surface to the possibility of becoming a platform for generating ideas.

This week, IdeaPaint ran a competition to win a kit of IdeaPaint CLEAR – a transparent paint to transform surfaces into an “erasable canvas”.  The competition was in honor of National Bad Poetry Day  and limited to the 140 characters of a tweet.  In the wee hours of the morning, I composed my entry and today, discovered I had won! The poem is really bad – but it made my husband and the people at IdeaPaint chuckle – and won me and my students a Clear IdeaPaint kit – hooray!

So, what do with it?   From the IdeaPaint website, they offer the following suggestions:


  1. On your chalkboards – IdeaPaint lets you improve what you already have by transforming old blackboards into high performing dry erase surfaces that increase collaborative square footage, while eliminating the health risk of dust.
  2. On desks and tables – Any surface in your classroom is fair game, especially those that get a lot of 1-on-1 attention. Turn desks and tables into interactive surfaces that let students work through their ideas without wasting paper.
  3. On lockers – Newly painted lockers at the Kiel School in New Jersey have been a huge hit because they let students take ownership of their personal space and act as a message board for friends and teachers.
  4. In hallways – The hallway sees more foot traffic than anywhere, which makes them the ideal place to communicate with IdeaPaint. At the iSchool in NYC, painting the hallways increased students interactions and made an instant impression on visitors to the school.
  5. On doors – IdeaPaint turns anything into a message board. A coat of CLEAR can turn a door into a place to post schedules, assignments, while maintaing existing aesthetics!
  6. In offices – IdeaPaint has many applications outside of the classroom too. Use it to create a seamless think space where teachers and administrators can collaborate, or create a handful of smaller spaces that help maximize the area in your offices.
  7. Anywhere else! The truth is, IdeaPaint can be used on any smooth surface. Every time we see it in schools, there’s a new application – in cafeterias, to create story boards, even on the floor!

IdeaPaint has been used at many schools and colleges around the US and the World.  One of those schools is MIT:

As I was looking through more of the work on the IdeaPaint website, I came across a combo IdeaPaint/Evernote innovation.  I was excited having set my class up last year with Evernote and having planned to do the same this year. I love the ideas encompassed in this video:

The possibilities are endless and I can’t wait to explore them!

On behalf of my kids at Riverstone International School, thank you IdeaPaint!

Creativity, Design, Inspiration, Internet

Become an Enabler….of Creativity!

I have read a couple of articles recently which advocate for the development of creativity in children.

Tinkerers Unite! How Parents Enable Kids’ Creativity

This WSJ article is in favor of kids making and creating without the use of directions.  Trial and error are favored over “getting it right” and parents who support their child developing their tinkering skills, are doing them a huge favor.  One parent interviewed describes mistakes as “part of the learning process”.  Awesome. Tinkering is encouraged as it develops spatial and mental rotation abilities which are integral to geometry and engineering.  One particularly interesting piece of information:

Jim Danielson, of Arlington Heights, Ill., fell into tinkering after his mother said he couldn’t have a TV set in his bedroom. “If I build my own TV, can I have it in my room?” he asked. “They probably didn’t think I could do it, so they said yes,” he recalls.

He built a projector system for his room during his high school sophomore year, and he and his friends used it to play Nintendo 64 games. His mother didn’t let him take the creation to college, though, concerned it might be dangerous in a small dorm room.

No matter. Mr. Danielson, now 21, dropped out of college last year to accept a Thiel Fellowship—an unusual program started by Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal—which pays young innovators $100,000 to stay out of college and spend two years tinkering instead.

Our first unit next year is about Solar Energy.  Based on this information, I want to make sure I have lots of tools and materials that will lend themselves to tinkering with less emphasis on ‘package’ solar energy kits and more on guided discoveries through tinkering. This made me think back to developmental time in New Zealand schools where children are given the option to tinker to their hearts content.  In light of the recent visit of Sal Khan to Boise, I would like to see our school move toward science/math oriented guided tinkering sessions that cross grade levels.  This could also be extended into Family Math and Science nights where teachers, parents, kids all gather together to tinker.  Sound fun to me!

Encouraging passionate learners … even when it’s not your thing

This post was written by Amanda Morgan of Not Just Cute.  The premise of the article is that passion and creativity should be encouraged and supported even when the same passion is not matched by the parent or teacher.  Kids who love worms, toads, dirt….whatever, should be encouraged in the following ways in order to promote self-directed, engaged learning – the opposite of which may be educational apathy:

  • give attention: listen to your child or find someone (aunty, grandpa, friend) who will
  • give supplies: buckets, magnifying glasses, collection containers, art supplies…anything that supports their passion
  • give space: an area for writing, collections, wiggly ‘friends’ or art works

When I think back to our recent Exhibition unit, and I think about how engaged our students were when they were paired with mentors or found community members that shared their passion, I know this to be true.  Seeing first-hand how kids respond when they have someone who really is genuinely interested in what they are passionate about is integral to the learning process.

I then found this website that would support the sharing of the creative process:

DIY – A Website to Share Your Creative Tinkering! 

DIY is an online community for kids. We give kids tools to collect everything they make as they grow up and a place to share it.

We’ve all seen how kids can be like little MacGyvers. They’re able to take anything apart, recycle what you’ve thrown away — or if they’re Caine, build their own cardboard arcade. This is play, but it’s also creativity and it’s a valuable skill.

Our idea is to encourage it by giving kids a place online to show it off, so family, friends and grandparents can see it and easily respond. Recognition makes a kid feel great, and motivates them to keep going. We want them to keep making, and by doing so learn new skills, use technology constructively, begin a lifelong adventure of curiosity, and hopefully spend time offline, too.

– DIY Blog

This looks like a very cool place for kids to share ideas with kids and be inspired by each other. Again, despite the somewhat ‘childish’ looking forum, I would really like to use this as a forum for my little solar tinkerers to share their work, get feedback and be inspired to create more.  What do you think? Take a look at the user interface and the feedback the site has already received:

Creativity, Design, Inspiration

In Memory – Ten Things Pablo Picasso Can Teach Us

If he were alive today, Pablo Picasso would be 130 years old.  39 years ago, Picasso passed away but has left an amazing legacy. As I sifted through a google search of “Picasso Quotations” I was reminded of why he is, and always will be, one of my favorites. If you have not done so, a read through of “When Piggaso Met Mootise” would be a great way to share the two fauves with kids.  It is a well read book from my homeroom and art teacher collection of books.


The more I read about 21st century education and the more I read from great educators, such as Picasso, the more I wonder if we have been really  listening all these years or simply ‘talking past each other’?  I love sharing all the things I find but the more I look and read and search and find, the more I am urged to do, to act, to…..something!  And it would seem Pablo would agree! On the anniversary of his death, he is still, as always, an inspiration.

Pablo in bold.  Sonya in italics.

  • Action is the foundational key to all success.   See!  Action.  Doing.  Creating.  Making.  I just have to figure out what!  Where does your motivation come from?  What is simmering away on your ‘action’ burner?  What are you doing?  Or, why aren’t you doing it?

  • Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.  Nothing like art to open your eyes to new things.  I love this graphic (below) as a reminder of looking for the beauty in the everyday with a sense of wonder. I sure want to live in the overlap! 
  • Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.  My hope is to teach kids in my class to steal well.  To steal things worth stealing and to make things worth stealing.  To be inspired. 

  • Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.  See point one.  Act.  Do. Make. Create. Repeat. 

  • Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.  I love this one.  Break stuff, see how it works, make it better.  Who doesn’t love to pull something apart?  If you have a kid like this, How Stuff Works will be their new nirvana. 

  • I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.  Love this too.  Need to do it more and to help my kids do it more too.

  • Love is the greatest refreshment in life.  All we need, right?  Get up and go hug yours.  (Then come back and keep reading please)

  • Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.  Again, see point one.  The laundry can wait but what about……?

  • Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.  Exactly. 

  • Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.  There’s the call to action again.  Is he trying to tell us something, perhaps?

21st Century, Creativity, Design, Innovation

Innovation 101: How to Create an Innovative Student


Are people born innovators, or can they learn to become that way? An interesting new book, “Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World,” by Tony Wagner, a member of Harvard’s Technology and Entrepreneurship Center, explores this question in detail.  The book will be released on April 17th – I can’t wait!  In the book, Wagner does some pretty cool things.

He uses over 60 QR codes within the book to link to video footage of many of the interviews he undertook for the research into this book.

He outlines what he sees as the four main characteristics of an innovator – which, not surprisingly, are very similar to the 4 C’s of 21st century education:

  • Curiosity, the habit of asking good questions and a desire to understand things more deeply
  • Collaboration, which begins with listening to and learning from others who have distinct perspectives and expertise
  • Associative or integrative thinking
  • A bias toward action and experimentation


He talks to loads of really interesting people who share really interesting ideas with him from their perspective, on innovation:


How important is innovation?  How important is oxygen to life?  Dean Kamen, Segway Inventor


Raising someone with the intention that they’ll be an innovator is actually different to raising a child that you want to behave all the time and be quite compliant.  Annemarie Neal, CISCO Vice President


Knowledge is a commodity.  You can get this on Google.  It’s about asking the right questions.  It’s about having the right insights and perceptions.  Richard Miller, Olin College


Let them fail. Because they are going to learn more from that than we could ever teach them directly. Unknown



Here is the book trailer that I can almost guarantee will leave you wanting more.  The reviews thus far indicate that this is ‘must have’ for those looking to move themselves or their students or children forward as innovators in the 21st Century – and beyond!

Design, Innovation


I was mentioning yesterday about the cosomonaut – the stylus for the iPad/iPhone.  The same guys who made that, made the app Frameographer which is available on iTunes for $2.99.  It is a stop-motion making app that is a lot of fun to play with.  About ten minutes after downloading, I had made this:

In about 45 minutes, I had made this:

If there is a good sunset tonight, I am going to try out the time-lapse feature.

I like that it is a clean, easy way to experiment with stop motion. There is an ‘onion skin’ layer that you can turn off and on that allows you to see where the last shot was on screen as a faint shadow. I think with a little effort, you could come up with something pretty slick in a relatively short period of time. (And maybe without shots of your fingers at the tops of the frames holding the books!). If you give it a go, post a link to your creation below! Once you make a film, it is one click to save to your camera roll and one more to export to YouTube. Easy.