Why I love working with kids – why you should work with kids (plus a bit about Jedi mind tricks)

Sorry I’ve been vacant from the blog lately. Sort of an unholy convergence of teaching/marking, event planning, burst water main, event planning again, kids with flu, and grant writing.

We also had my son’s Star Wars themed birthday party a few weeks back, which we foolishly held in our house (also, if you can believe it, Kate, my wife, made a Jedi robe for every kid!). There was one game we played that just brought to life how much fun it can be to work with kids. Kind of brought home some of the wonderful aspects of getting involved in outreach programs with the youth.

My daughter, the Jedi at Disneyland.

What we did was change up the game “pass the parcel.” We had saw online that there were Star Wars versions of this, which primarily involved wrapping something up like a ball, and calling it a Death Star.

Instead, we thought that it would be way more fun if we could convince the kids that if they used the “force” they could get the stereo to stop the music (and therefore entitling them to the act of unwrapping). This, of course, is easy to do since pretty much every stereo these days comes with a remote. Note that, of course, the Star Wars theme was the music.

I tell you: it was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time – here you have a group of 5 year olds “concentrating” so hard, and doing the classic Jedi arm gestures at the stereo to try and make the music stop. Especially funny when the music actually stopped when they did this. (and after an unwrapping, we would consistently get them to use the “force” all together to start the music up again – “On the count of 3: one… two… three!!). It was brilliant, seriously!

Since the party, we’ve even had a few of the parents call us, saying that their children are still trying to make their stereos turn on by sheer will of thought. I think this is both charming and hilarious, but if you have a problem with the thought of messing with your kid’s head, you do actually have an easy out by saying that as a young Jedi, this force stuff works much better when you have a group of you using the force all at once.

Anyway, so what’s the point of this post really? Well, just to say that working with children can be a lot of fun. And since you’re reading, why not see if you can take your own skills and see if there’s some outreach you can participate in. It’s not like you’re a teacher where you have to do this day in and day out. Just a few hours here and there is great.

Here, I’m sure there’s lots of options in your neck of the woods, but if you’re the sort that likes to think of starting something up proper (small or grand), here is an excellent place to look into this (Once Upon a School).

Let me know, if you come up with any cool ideas – I may even be in a position to help.

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David (@ng_dave) is Faculty at the Michael Smith Labs. His writing has appeared in places such as McSweeney's, The Walrus, and boingboing.net. He plans on using Terry as another place to highlight the mostly science-y links he appreciates. In fact, if you liked this one, you might also like his main site generally - this can be found at popperfont.net.