In December our group facilitated a Family Night in partnership with the ideaLAB at the Hadley Public Library in Denver. It was a two-hour activity in a weeknight. We wanted to engage families to create and learn together with computing and designed a set of activities where we invited families to create projects under the theme of “Winter Wonderland.”
We had three activity stations: Light-Up Snowflakes Mural, Dancing Winter Creatures, and Winter Wonderland Soundscapes.
Firstly, we gathered with the families and dedicated 30 min of the workshop only to have dinner, and then we talked briefly about the activities. After the introduction, we went to the ideaLAB where the stations were set up.
In the Light-up Snowflake station, we used paper circuits combined with the Chibi Chip to make the snowflakes light up. The Chibi Chip is a microcontroller that allows people to code light effects. We encouraged families to cut their own snowflake, design their circuit, and tinker with the different light effects using the Chibi Chip.
In the Dancing Creatures station, we had craft materials, LEGO, and the LEGO WeDo (a kit with a programmable motor, distance sensor, and tilt sensor) to create creatures that could move in interesting ways. We encouraged families to build their creatures by combining craft materials and LEGO bricks, and then code their movement using Scratch, a block-based coding environment.
To encourage more interesting dance movements, the ideaLAB staff created a foam base so the creatures could explore and interact with a diverse scenario.
We wanted to capture all the crazy and weird movements of the creatures, so we took some videos of the “performances”!
In the Soundscape station, we used Scratch and Makey Makey (a physical kit that allows users to connect everyday objects to computer programs) to create digital winter characters that were triggered by physical objects.
It was challenging to design engaging and interesting activities for a short session but we were glad that families had fun and interacted with different and inspiring materials.
Some things we’d like to focus on for next time: First, we want to better support families to tinker with the code in each of the stations. Each station had different ways to engage with the code and it was not always clear to families on how to jump right in. Second, we want to add a bit more structure to help orient parents in how they can engage in meaningful ways. This family night was a drop-in format and some parents tended to stay back and watch their kids. Finally, instead of having multiple stations going on at once, we want to experiment with having one activity a night. We hope this shift might help families to engage more deeply with each activity.