Sunday, April 15, 2012

Destination Imagination State Champs!!!!

I managed 2 Destination Imagination teams for my kids this year. We started the end of January and just participated in the state tournament this Saturday. We had a middle school team that did the fine arts challenge of presenting a live movie trailer which was composed of 5 girls. We also had an elementary level team that did the structural challenge of building a small tower out of wood and glue and a delivery device to put golf balls inside the tower which was composed of 4 boys.

There were only about 15 teams who participated in the tournament which was very disappointing, but we were able to watch most of the presentations which was interesting and helpful. I think this is only the 3rd time they have had a tournament in Utah, so hopefully it will grow and get better over time. There was a lot of time spent waiting around when it wasn't their turn. They also participated in an Instant Challenge, but we aren't allowed to talk about it until after the global finals. I will say that those challenges were disappointing. One was way too simple which made it boring, and one was so confusing, that the team was unable to accomplish it because they just had no idea what to do.

The girls had a rough start in trying to get the team together. We had several girls drop out before we were settled on the 5 that stayed with it. Unfortunately, some of the girls who dropped out had a lot of influence on the story they picked, so it probably would have been different otherwise. Also, I really let them do the whole thing on their own. I read them the rules, but they were left to themselves so I think they did well for not having much guidance or skills taught to them. We had no idea we would have such a good chance of winning. #1 wrote the musical score for the original soundtrack and performed it on the keyboard, and it was awesome!! They had 1 minute to set up their set and 4 minutes to perform their trailer. They had planned to turn off the lights between scenes which they weren't allowed to do, and they had no idea they would be on a stage until we got there, so they were a little flustered and would definitely do some things differently next time. They ran out of time and were unable to perform their last scene so they were disappointed. But it worked out, because although they came in second, the first place team was from Idaho so they still got first for Utah and thus qualify for the global tournament.

The boys had a rough start this year also because they couldn't settle for sure on doing the structural challenge and some of them wanted to do a movie trailer like the girls. We finally figured out that we could just use popsicle sticks and hot glue and that they really didn't need to cut anything, because the challenges have to be done completely by the teams. The managers, parents and others can teach them skills and make sure they follow the rules, but the solution for the challenge has to be done by the team alone. The point of the tower was to make it hold as much weight as possible and then also they had to come up with a delivery device and they could earn extra pounds of weight for each golf ball delivered and captured in the tower. My boys made a couple prototypes with their dad and one of the other dads actually built a tester and another prototype with his son. they tested them all out and found out which one was the strongest in fact we couldn't break it as we only had weights up to about 120 lbs. So once we got to the challenge. The boys put on the big weights, delivered the golf balls fine and won by a lot even for the middle school level. Their tower held 265 lbs, but probably could have held more had they used smaller weights after the larger ones. They got 200 lbs. extra for holding 5 golf balls. It was pretty exciting. They were also supposed to make up a story or skit to go along with their tower, but they didn't, but most of the points were for the weight. The other teams put a lot more emphasis on the skit and their towers were not strong at all. So the boys easily took 1st place.

It was very exciting to be presented with their medals at the awards ceremony and the boys even got an extra medal for their instant challenge presentation which was a little surprising, but they were very happy about it. It was nice for them all to be recognized and to win. They all loved it. Now we have to decide whether to go to globals or not. We will definitely try to go. I would like them to see how a big tournament is run. There are a lot of activities planned also in conjunction with the tournament and people from all over the world coming, so I think it would be really good for them.

I am really glad that we did this program. I think it has been very beneficial overall. I think all the kids are excited to do even better next time and they got some good ideas of what else they can do and what can be done. I think that will happen even more so if we go to globals so I hope it works out!! Very fun and exciting!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

National Latin Exam Results

We got the National Latin Exam test results back-- There were 148,000 kids from all 50 states and 13 different countries who took it. There were 40 questions, the average was 28. #1 scored 23 and got a certificate of merit and #2 scored 30 and got a cum laude certificate. We had hoped they'd do a little better, but it is a great start and they have learned a lot and they are on a great path for academic success. We are very proud of them both!!

This is definitely not the end of Latin-- it is just the beginning. I am so excited for them. We are going to have them start watching a lecture on the History of Rome from The Teaching Company once a week. They will also be finishing up the Latin I course and then starting Latin II in the fall and take the NLE again for Latin II. We will also be starting a formal logic course from Memoria Press in the fall. I just love where they are headed-- even though it really is challenging, they are doing it.

I hope they get better at taking tests. I am going to have them take a bunch of practice bubble sheet tests this summer too. As homeschoolers I think test taking skills really suffer a bit. This was the first bubble sheet test they have taken, and they both finished in about half the normal time-- so I think we need to work on that. I may even have them take past Latin Exams once a week just to get better used to taking tests and see if we can get some of these things solidified in their minds. In my public school education I became a master test taker, but I didn't retain much information after the test. I would like my girls to be both good test takers and be able to retain the information.

Right now we are enjoying the fabulous weather and taking a week long Spring Break. I am loving it!! My house is pretty clean, I've gotten some good rest and I hope we'll be ready to pick it back up again on Monday- 'cause it has been awesome. The kids are bummed that they still have to do chores and practice the piano-- but it really doesn't take that long and they have been playing outside most of the time. I'm hoping we have time to build a new chicken coop. Destination Imagination tournament is this Saturday, so we may not-- oh well!!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Story pictures

I love these Easter story pictures for the kids to cut out and paste onto papers to make a little book:

My kids are getting printables to color, these and treats this year-- I hope they won't be disappointed.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Great Article on Why kids should learn CS (computer coding)

This article isn't very long and it is well written so I think it is worth a couple minutes to read. One of his points that struck me is how much we rely on computers for our bank accounts, law enforcement, medical records, and just about everything else in our lives-- doesn't it make sense that we should understand exactly how they work and just how to use them? Good stuff:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Teaching Computer Science

My husband makes his living as a software engineer. He really enjoys the challenge of it and has learned and certified in various programming languages. As we were reviewing the AP tests we'd like the kids to take, he remembered the Computer Science one, reviewed it and found that it is mostly JAVA which he knows well and he got excited about sharing with the kids what he does for a living. So we bit the bullet and bought a Mac Mini computer so that the kids can learn how to program and develop software. We chose the Mac because it will always work and the controls are really easy to use and make it much harder for little fingers to mess up the environments or settings on accident.

He did some research and found this great program that teaches programming to kids:

The kids have absolutely loved it so far. Their first assignment was to make a short game where a good guy follows wherever the mouse points and a bad guy follows him and the good guy makes a sound whenever the bad guy touches him. Their next assignment is to make a short 2-player game. It is fun to see them all so interested in programming and putting some of that attraction to screens to good use.

It is really fun to have older kids able to start doing really interesting things. It just keeps getting better!