Come Out and Play



Come Out and Play

This week, Olivia gave us the task of utilising technology to encourage children to play outside, and then present a video to the group on Friday afternoon.  Olivia said we could work in pairs, however, I felt that many of the others were already planning to pair up; along with my outside commitments to work and family (I am a lot older), I thought it would be unfair to team up with someone else, as I didn’t want to affect their work because of my schedule.

I really wasn’t sure where to start, but instinctively knew I wanted kids to feel like they were achieving something – rather being to told to just go outside – whilst learning as they went.  I looked into experiments that kids could do to achieve a mind boggling result – glow in the dark gloop made from potatoes, instant freezing water – but felt that without seeing the result first, they wouldn’t feel the urge to go through the motions of making the experiment; plus seeing the end result first, ruins the wow factor.  I then looked at the obligatory option of using a smartphone to photograph an animal / insect, conducting an image search for that animal, and getting facts about it, along with adding it to your collection.  I took this idea further by allowing a child to amass a collection of animals, along with an associated list of strengths or weaknesses, and then sending a fight challenge to another friend.  For example, Tim sends a challenge to pit his beetle against Peters hedgehog (size adjusted), and see who wins based on their strengths or weaknesses.  The winner, adds that animal to their collection.  I liked this idea – like an animal Top Trumps – but thought that it catered to a more male audience and could be seen as copying the Top Trumps idea.

To clear my head, I took a ride on my motorbike, and, as I rode past Penarth beach, inspiration hit me: I wonder what I could make using the debris washed up on a beach?

I thought that kids could design something on screen, using a collaborative website, called Build It For – similar in structure to Minecraft or Google Sketchup – using materials known to be found at certain sites (driftwood at a beach, branches and leaves in a forest).  The website would use proper physics, would inform the builder where the weak point of the build is, and then allow them to arrange a time and date to meet at a local place to build the plan for real.  They could print out their build plans or take their tablets to the site, where the plans would tell them the approximate sizes of items they would need, what sequence they would need to build it in and how many people they need to do it.  Once the item was built, they can take a photo, upload it to the website, allowing other people to download the plans and build it for themselves.  The website could work in a similar way to, a random build website.

To take this idea further, I wanted to address the issue of people living inner city, not having access to these organic sites, only having council run parks nearby.  I came up with idea of Build-a-Park, a council run park site, but one that only has a soft play ground, possibly a few solid structures such as poles or doorways; no swings, slides or usual, pre-made structures.  Instead, there would be a giant box of branded Lego, with all shapes and sizes availble to use.  The plan would be the same as Build It For they would simply pick up the local park, have access to the known box of Lego supplies onsite, and then build something online that they can then arrange to go to the park and build.  I decided upon Lego as it has universal appeal to children of all ages and is instinctive in its use, but also, there is something very appealing about using giant Lego blocks!
The film associated with this project was filmed by me, on my camera phone, by simply wedging it between two trees for the main part, and the resting it on a park bench for the other.  I added the cutaway sections – ‘The Beach’, ‘An AXE’ – to visually show what I was discussing and also for the comedy value.


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