Last week, Mr. Boo was inspired…by something, I don’t know what…to make a paper game for his stuffies, and he has been doing tons of crafting with paper ever since.
This sudden passion for paper crafting happily coincided with this past week’s theme in my Project-Based Homeschooling Master Class: making (being a maker, nurturing a maker, and mentoring a maker). Like a textbook example of PBH, these paper projects are manifesting as all sorts of learning. We’ve covered physics, math, geometry, fine motor skills, and problem solving. As is usually the case with child-led learning, my son knows exactly what to do – it’s me who needs to learn how to stay out of his way!
For his first project, a basketball court, I confess I did not do a great job of letting him problem-solve. He caught me off guard and my natural inclination was to “help”, thus robbing him of the opportunity to figure it out himself. This is why I’m loving my Master Class so much – I tend to try to solve their problems, rather than let them do it themselves. Consciously, I understand that I shouldn’t do this, but it’s a bad habit; the course helps keep me mindful of my role as mentor. Fortunately, he didn’t hold it against me, and when he next came to me I was better prepared.
The court has two hoops and there are “power-up items” scattered about the court that grant the player special abilities. He decided that the court needed some decorating, and I suggested we look up the patterns of real courts. He pulled up Google Images and copied some of the lines onto his court. Along the way there was lots of drawing, writing, cutting, and taping to work those fine motor skills (something he struggles with as part of his autism).
The day he built this game was also the first day back to his after-school program for kids with autism. He brought the game with him to show all his friends! I loved how much pride he took in his creation.
He went again the next day (he goes twice a week) and they went on a field trip to a local park with a nice playground. Mr. Boo loves playgrounds. But when I came to pick him up, he got off the bus with a bag full of paper! Apparently he and his friend had spent the whole time at the park sitting at a picnic table creating gaming worlds and levels using paper. Those creations stayed at the centre, so I don’t have photos, but the drive to create didn’t stop there.
Back at home he had a big idea for a paper board game that he named “Joe’s Plush Adventure”. He talked about it constantly and couldn’t wait for project time. On the next homeschool day, we headed out to Staples to pick up some supplies (paper, scissors, tape, and thick markers) and put aside our Little Big Planet 2 project to work on this instead. In a brief moment of school-ingrained thinking and parental doubt, I wondered whether I should make him finish the first project before moving on to the second, but I knew immediately that doing so would only squash his enthusiasm about this paper project and make him resent the programming project. Besides, he is progressing with game design through other outlets and this project is something that better fits the bill: the LBP2 idea came about due to a lack of ideas for project time, whereas this was a giant spark that lit him up. There was no way I was going to throw water on that flame!
So, without further ado, here is what he’s done so far:
The big challenge came when he wanted to make a pillar on which the character could wall jump up to the top, then hop over to a floating platform. How to make a floating platform? He didn’t want to place it on its own pillar; he wanted to have it suspended from a ceiling. How to make a ceiling? He attached that ripped piece of paper to the top of the pillar, but oops – it just flopped over. So he taped a straw to it. That was better. Then he tried to stick a piece of paper perpendicular to it for a ceiling. That didn’t work. He made the ceiling piece smaller, then came up with using a straw to prop it up.
After that, he had to experiment with different lengths of tape for suspending the platform from the ceiling. Meanwhile, the thing kept tipping over. He used a pair of scissors to weigh it down, which worked until he added more paper to the thing. Then he tried making a cube out of paper and using it as a weight: not heavy enough. Finally he sent me outside to find a rock, and that did the trick. I’m proud that I kept my mouth shut during all this, given that I already knew the answers. He never got frustrated or asked/expected me to solve it. He just kept coming up with ideas and trying them out until it worked. THAT is real learning!
Watching his enthusiasm, his determination, his drive, his pride…I thought to myself, THIS is why I homeschool. I love giving him the freedom to pursue his passions; honouring his ideas with dedicated time, space, and materials; and – most of all – sharing in the joy of learning, creating, and discovering.