Paper Airplanes

A couple of months ago we had a birth celebration for my eighty-something year old mother-in-law, Wilma, at our home. My wife has a large family with MANY children, from newborn to teens. Last time we held this event, the young children ran around getting into things (playing) and the teens talked/texted on their phones or played Wii. We kept some busy by showing videos. I don’t like doing this.
My mother-in-law
I mean, I do not like succumbing to doing ordinary things in extraordinary situations. People ALWAYS watch movies and tinker with their phones and play video games. A family gathering is an extraordinary situation. I see it as an opportunity to influence youth we may not see regularly. Granted, we did play family games at the end of the day, which really bonds the youth with the adults. However, I feel an obligation to ALWAYS be an example for young people by sharing what I know WHENEVER I have the opportunity to turn on some mental lightbulbs, especially for Black children. How many times have you talked to a Black high school graduate and asked them what they planned on studying in college? The head looks down, then to the sky, then “I think I’m gonna major in this”, or “I’m thinking about that”. Or even worse, “general ed”. Why don’t they know what it is they want to do? Could it be because they have not been exposed to enough different activities as to where they can discover there God-given (non-entertainment) talents.

So, I thought I’d try paper airplanes. Why? Why not? It’s easy, cheap, and thrilling to make something with your hands and watch it perform! All the children loved it. Even the “cool” teens were attracted to it once the younger crowd at the table cleared. I had color markers there for them to personalize their creations. And they flew great! Some took theirs home with them. Am I a paper airplane expert or an aeronautical engineer? Nope. But to them I was. All I did was visit some websites and fire-up the printer. What did I achieve? I had fun sharing, and I did not go to bed feeling guilty. They had fun doing something new that did not require a USB charger. Maybe they’ll look at me as the relative that’s always sharing something new with them. Maybe one of them, years later, will say that I was the guy that helped inspire them to be an engineer.

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What if black children study programming?

…or How to not hear “But I don’t like doing math!”

It seems like all children love playing with video games and apps whether using a game console, tablet, smart phone, or web-based on a computer. Some of you have to pry your phones from your children just to make a phone call. Have you noticed how their interests seem to change as they get older? As two and three-year olds, they are challenged by mastering the motor skills of controlling the mouse, finding the keys, or understanding those strange symbols (alphabet). Some parents purchase educational software or direct them toward early learning websites, which generally take the form of games. Parents who have used these applications for their young children know that learing on the computer is fun for them (the children), not work. Children learn to read, add, type, and solve puzzles. My children loved Reader Rabbit and Puttputt.

By the time children get to their pre-teens, computer games are still fun, but no more learning. Just fast action or socializing games. The laptop or desktop is abandoned for the smart phone and game console. What happened to the learning? Imaging what may have happened if we introduced them to programming? Granted, this would have been very challenging for parents who are not programmers themselves. But now, with the Internet and powerful laptop computers, it’s MUCH easier. We can now keep that computer fun and challenging for your five, six, seven and older children by using the new generation children’s programming languages like Scratch and Alice. That’s what I’m doing for a group of eight to twelve-year-old boys in my neighborhood. For free. Maybe by the time they reach high school they’ll like doing math.

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