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.

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

  1. Brenda

    The best part of working with kids (in my opinion) is that they’re able to appreciate the world much more openly and readily… I’ve come across kids hugging each other because “I just think you’re so cute!” and saying genuine statements like “daddy, the flowers are so beautiful!”
    I think many of us have “educated” ourselves away from this innocent, non-cynical appreciation 🙁

  2. Joefromkits

    That has got to the funniest thing I’ve read in a while.

    Maybe these comments can also be a good place to leave links of programs where a UBC student could do some outreach. I’ll start:

    UBC Let’s Talk Science (link)

  3. shehneen

    i’ve hung out with kids (and on occasion worked with them) since i was a kid… they are AMAZING. i’ve been described as ‘youthful’ (implying many things) and thank all the kids i have the pleasure of knowing for it. there is nothing like spinning pass the parcel into a jedi mind trick phenomenon. and the complete buy in to playing and letting creativity and imagination soar is what i adore most about hanging out with kids. i was the parade queen on ships, if you had a favourite thing (from pirates to polka dots), i had a parade for it.

    Have you heard of 826 Valencia, project based, youth centred learning. its my wish to do something a long these lines but to include oral tradition and public speaking. it would be amazing to start and incorporate the student population in it. literacy and the ability to articulate means voices being heard. maybe the front could be the jedi masters supply store. take a look. let me know if you’re interested. i can’t do a terry talk (not a student, and can’t do a ted talk (not a world player). so am relegated to pitching to you on your blog. watch david eggers ted talk. and let me know your thoughts.

  4. David Ng

    I have heard of 826 Valencia. In fact, one of the programs started at AMBL was based on some of their work.

    You know, I get quite a few folks asking about 826 Valencia type things in Vancouver. One of these days, we should get together and do a brainstorm session…

  5. shehneen

    which day?

    cheeky aren’t i? i know you are probably have a thousand requests on your desk. however, a jedi master supply store and cool one-on-one literacy across disciplines centre that has a publishing/public engagement house in the back room sounds so much fun, doesn’t it?

    i would also like to ‘audit’ some of the AMBL sessions to get a feel for it and see if we can incorporate a day similar to this (experiential learning at its best) into UBC Jump Start. Do you think that’s possible?

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