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  Santa Cruz Parent Santa Cruz, CA

February 28, 2013

Childhood is About Learning to Communicate - but How?

Suki: Do No Harm

How to Raise Entrepreneurial Kids
Science with Christine: Miscounting Calories
This Week
Contra Dance Friday Night
continued... Childhood is About Learning to Communicate - but How?
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(Photos General) ElizabethButler.jpg(Photos General) ButchBaker.jpgOur hearts go out to the families of our fallen police, Elizabeth Butler  and Butch Baker.  More than most of us, police too often face being in "the wrong place at the wrong time".  Santa Cruz is mourning.  It seems like too much when a series of unrelated violent deaths occur in our home towns.  Are there creative social solutions that would decrease or eliminate these tragic incidentsI hope so.  Although answers are perplexing and complex, there appears to be a pattern of mentally ill individuals slipping through the cracks.  Social entrepreneurs, America needs you!

Our neighborhood mockingbirds are back, mimicing all manner of sounds --other birds, diesel engines, jack-hammers, sirens, cats-- and then turning them into their own songs.  Are they creative or copy cats or both!  Such is the nature of these lively birds, the ability to take from what is and leap to something new. Are we doing enough to foster that spirit in our children, or is our educational system killing it.  We include thoughts on creativity and entrepreneurialsim this week from Chris Yonge of MakersFactory, Suki Wessling of Avant Parenting and an article recommended by Jill Troderman of Holistic Family Nutrition.

Are we eating wisely, counting calories, exercizing and still not losing weight?  Christine may have an answer as to why!

Enjoy! Parmalee


Dr.Yong Zhao's talk last week on World Class Learners resounded with entrepreneurial spirit. He panned our current government mandated system of teaching to tests as nothing more than creating uniform sausages --boring, stifling and unsuccessful!

He asked "In today's world, what knowledge and talents do our children need?" and answered, "We need entrepreneurs: social entrepreneurs, political entrepreneurs, foreign policy entrepreneurs, business entrepreneurs, financial entrepreneurs, farming entrepreneurs, technological entrepreneurs, teaching entrepreneurs, etc. We need creative children who will become creative adults. Creativity has caused our problems and creativity will solve our problems. We educators are in the futures business. We are no longer training for factory jobs. We are educating for jobs that don't even exist today. How do we teach for that? We must see individual differences, recognize multiple intelligences, respect cultural diversity and foster a passion for creativity. Every talent is useful. Nurture it. We must teach individuals."

(Graphics) ImGood.jpgOur American students do not do well on math tests when compared to other countries, but when questioned about how good they are in math, their confidence levels are at the top of the list! China is #1 on math scores but scores low on the confidence level. I like that brash confident quality about us Americans. Is that not what has made our Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerbergs and other entrepreneurs who have changed our worlds? Is that not what has made America so successful in creating a high level of lifestyle in America? The question is "How do we create more of these creative characters? How do we support confidence, even arrogance, networking, risk taking, intellectual pursuits, passion, creativity, alertness to opportunities, Where does one find teaching entrepreneurs?

Zhao thinks it's amazing that Americans are successful, confident, intelligent, ignorant, entrepreneurial, smart and arrogant even though we come through an educational system that has always been mediocre or downright bad. Despite what he perceives as our lousy educational system, we are unique among nations in our creativity and entrepreneurialism. Perhaps that is because our citizens are a marvel of mixing cultures, races, religions, heritages, intelligences.

  Childhood is About Learning to Communicate - but How?

(Photos General) ChrisYonge.jpgby Chris Yonge, MakersFactory


We all know that kids love to communicate - it's their nature. You can argue the whole point of childhood is learning to do just that: with others' minds through language, with the real world through science, with one's body through exercise, and with imagination through art and music.

But something is missing from that list, an important part of our world:
(Photos General) MakersCamp-Animation2.jpgcommunicating with computers and robotic machines. Computing has become central to our lives very fast, in little over a generation. Look at a science fiction movie from the 1980s: you won't see computers being owned and used by ordinary people. From HAL in 2001 to the tellingly named "ship's computer" in Star Trek they show what computers were at that time and it was assumed would continue to be: large machines, operated by specialists.

But a generation later almost every home has at least one - often many more, as even simple electromechanical devices like telephones and cameras have turned into computers. So as a result there has been another change: the physical data containers we grew up with, such as maps, movie tapes, photographs, books, and magazines, are becoming electronic files that need computer hardware and skills simply to see them.

No-one saw this coming thirty years ago. What will our kids be using thirty years from now? ....Read more here!  or skip to the end of this newsletter for the rest of the article.

Chris Yonge, MakersFactory, v 20130222a,, c 831 212 3458


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  Suki: Do No Harm

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Last weekend I went to an educational conference held by the California Association for the Gifted. The conference is for educators, psychologists, and parents of gifted children. It's heavily weighted toward public school teachers, but in general there's something for everyone in the field.

One morning I sat down with my wonderful publishers, Jim Webb and Janet Gore, to chat, and we ended up sitting next to a teacher who struck up a conversation with us. I didn't get her name or the district she works in, but her story is, right now in California, a very common one.

(Graphics) NoChildLeftBehindCartoon.jpgShe told us that she works in a heavily Latino district, and that most of her students are English language learners. Everyone who has studied ELLs knows the facts: On average, they take a few years to come up to speed in English. Their test scores during this period are awful, of course. Then eventually, if given the right educational opportunities, their knowledge of a second language becomes an asset. Please notice the big "if" in that sentence.

This teacher told me a story that I've heard in my home district as well. Labeled by No Child Left Behind as a "failing" school, they were put under the ill-named "Program Improvement." Under PI, all control over what happens in the school is taken over by the state. Teachers have no choice in what to teach when - they actually have to follow a script each day.

These were things that I knew, but here are some more things she told us as we listened, horrified ...Read more>>>


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  How to Raise Entrepreneurial Kids

BY Nadia Goodman | December 11, 2012|

(Photos General) Children_Entrepreneur_Kid.jpgTomorrow's business leaders and startup founders will be today's young kids whose parents have raised them with an entrepreneurial spirit -- a skill that is increasingly important as young people flood the startup world and the freelance economy grows.

As a parent, you inspire entrepreneurship by fostering the emotional skills your child will need, such as comfort with risk, effective problem solving, and a positive attitude toward failure.

"It's all about shaping the child's behavior," says Dr. Andrea Vazzana, clinical assistant professor of child psychiatry at New York University Langone's Child Study Center. "Social emotional skills are important and the earlier you can help a child with them, the better." 

Here are five parenting tips to help you foster entrepeneurial qualities in your kidsRead about the five tips!>>>>

Thank you to Jill Troderman, entrepreneur and owner of Holistic Family Nutrition for sending us this article.

  Science with Christine: Miscounting Calories

(Photos General) Food_EatingLightly.jpgWe have been counting calories in the same way for over 100 years. It is very simple: each gram of protein has 4 calories, each gram of fat has 9 calories, and each gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories plus 2 calories for each gram of fiber.

There is no distinction made between different foodstuffs in digestibility or how our body actually metabolizes the food. Also no distinction is made between cooked and uncooked food, although there can be some serious chemical changes that occur when something is cooked.

Is this right? ...Read more>>>>

  This Week

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School Corner

 Santa Cruz Children's School K-6, Open House 3/5


Spring Hill School K-8, Kindergarten Tour 3/6


Chartwell & The New High School K-12, Dyslexia Simulations Workshop 3/13


Gateway School K-8, Open House 3/13


Chartwell & The New high School K-12, Open House 3/16


Santa Cruz Montessori School K-8, Morning In the Kindergarten 3/16

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 Contra Dance Friday Night

(Photos General) ContraDance_LotsofPeople.jpg(Photos General) ContraDance_withBaby.jpgGreat Family Fun!
No excuses! Put on your swirly skirts, dancing boots and go dancing!  It's good for the heart and emotional well-being!  Contra Dancing is for all ages.  Beginners are  welcomed with introductory moves and then encouraged and helped by regulars.  All ages are welcomed by Santa Cruz Dance.

Music: The Farmer's Market String Band
With: Darren Davison on fiddle
Karen Sanderson on fiddle
John Hawes on guitar
Mark McCornack on banjo and other instruments
Calling by: Greg McKenzie

Please join us for a great dance! Regular door donation of $10!
8 - 11pm, Friday, March 1
Felton Community Hall
1691 Highway 9.

Optional Newcomer's Orientation: 7:40 PM

(Photos General) ContraDance_TwoKids.jpgPlease do not enter the dance hall until after you have either changed into clean dance shoes or you have carefully cleaned your shoes at the shoe-cleaning station in the hallway.
Think you'll be too tired to dance for Three Hours? Sign up on entry to sit at the door for two dances. This is a great way to meet new friends and to contribute to the warm and hospitable atmosphere at our dances. Plus you get a $4 discount off your entrance contribution.

Bring snacks to share if you have any - healthy stuff is encouraged. Bring friends, family and anyone else. Bring $10, or $6 if you're a student and need
the discount.

Mighty Good!

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Date: Every day (Mar 8-Mar 9)
Details: Value packed Family Fun Overnight at the Boardwalk/Cocoanut Grove
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  continued... Childhood is About Learning to Communicate - but How?

More than we can imagine. Partly because two of the fastest growing creative professions just now are UI and UX design. These initials stand for User Interface and User Experience. Every manufacturer and software firm and web site owner wants to give their customers an easier, faster, more productive experience. This is hard to do as the increasing complexity of products and the web present real challenges if they are to be used properly.

But to those who understand them, and where UI and UX designers have worked their magic, many technologies have moved away from the expensive world of trained specialists to being affordable and accessible. Programming a processor was difficult a decade ago; now, with the appearance of versatile $30 printed circuit boards like the Arduino, anyone can build and program their own robot, display panel, automatic plant feeder, or alarm clock. The free computer languages these devices use such as Python, JavaScript, Processing, and Ruby are well designed, and learning them opens many doors in electronics and robotics. Kids take to this fast: they're wired for it. It's communication - and power.

Another reason our kids will have many more doors open to them is that professional grade creative programs are increasingly affordable and even free. Open source software like Blender (at for animation or Inkscape ( for vector drawing are rapidly growing in power and rival the capabilities of expensive programs like the Maya or Illustrator of five or ten years ago. Professional work can now be done with free software, and it is all around us.

2D to 3D
Our kids will experience other changes, particularly in the way things are designed and made. When I lecture on this subject I often use cave paintings of hunts as an example. These dramatic events took place in three dimensions of space and one of time but could only be recorded as flat and frozen diagrams. But when that recording surface of rock wall changed to a clay tablet and then to papyrus and paper, the two dimensional filter on how humans recorded 3D objects and events remained. For tens of thousands of years our society and its creative potential were limited to flat pictures of a solid world until the development of 3D computer software fifty years ago. Now that constraint has gone and everything has changed.

Like computers, computer controlled machines have been around for fifty years, but they were subtractive devices. In other words they removed material from a solid block of metal or plastic to make the final shape. Often most of the original volume ended up as shavings or dust. But now we are seeing the rise of additive technologies, where the material starts as a gypsum or metal dust, or a plastic filament, and is formed into its final shape through layers solidified with inkjet applied glue, or precisely melted with a laser, or built up with a heated extrusion head. Little to no material is wasted in additive processes and we can make shapes this way that were impossible to create with subtractive machines. At MakersFactory we 3D print working gears complete with axles and supports in one piece; in our exhibition cases we have a metal sculpture consisting of three concentric cubes spinning inside one another that was also made in one piece and would be impossible to make any other way. Soon many household products will be manufactured this way, custom sized and detailed for each purchaser. Or by the purchaser - in future the distinction between designer and client will blur.

the new creativity
Using and understanding the new technologies in a creative way, picking them up and setting them down like pencils in a drawing set, will be increasingly important. Our kids will not experience employment the same way that our generation has; they may change jobs and professions many times in their working lives, moving from full time employment to part-time and contract work, from self-employment to full-time education. Some of the professions they practice will not even exist today. They will need to learn and adapt, and those who are best at learning - those who enjoy it most - will be the most flexible and have most opportunities. Developing a profitable and flexible set of skills, experiences, and knowledge is a lifetime process that begins at birth. It is the most valuable thing that we can provide for our children.

In response to these changes in society the way that learning is taught is being reexamined, particularly in Europe. Internships and workplace simulations ease the transition for students from school to work, and subtly encourage them to carry their "learning mode" with them.
Traditionally, school-based learning has been organized in a formal curriculum, focused on a combination of testable knowledge but rather vague skills. There was a distinction made between theory and practice. By contrast training in the workplace was based on vague, often example based knowledge but very clear skills acquisition in specific contexts and with particular tools. Theory and practice were far apart. Over the last decade, however, those poles have moved closer. Schools have closer links to local industries and more project based learning, while workplace education has benefited from the ability of web based courses to provide more academic content.

All these enable students to know and do what exists, but not to create something new. It is the innovators and entrepreneurs who will be secure and succeed in the world as it will be, and a key component in their makeup will be creativity.

I am co-founder of MakersFactory in Santa Cruz. We teach classes in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) rather than STEM - blending technology with creativity. The arts are a natural way to explore creativity and problem solving, not least because there is often no right answer and equally no way in which a solution can be completely wrong. But making things in a traditional industrial arts course can be a recipe for loss of confidence.

High school woodshop classes could be - and certainly were, in my case - more lessons in frustration than creativity. This is because making an object in wood or metal by hand is subject to endless risk. A pen and ink engineering drawing can be ruined by an accidental smear. A chisel may slip after the student cuts a dozen good joints and mean tedious work has to be repeated, or damaged work accepted if there is no time or material to repeat. A chemical photograph of the result could be unusable in many ways only discovered later in the darkroom. A generation ago students learned slowly and often through failure. Childhood (given what children have to learn these days) is too short, and kids' self confidence too fragile, for this.

New technologies allow students to be learn without the continual risk of losing everything they have done through accident.
An electronic drawing can be amended and corrected endlessly, and for every mistake there is the Undo command. A laser cutter or a 3D printer follows commands perfectly, and even if the power is cut or the computer crashes the process can be repeated exactly. Creative technologies become exercises in learning and not in painful hand skills. Kids don't have the time to learn to be master craftsmen unless they really want to be (despite my teenage experiences in shop class I went on to work as a furniture designer/maker for ten years), but they do need to understand how different materials behave, how to create things and finish them and take them home to show, and how to communicate with a machine through software.

At MakersFactory we offer a unique setting: classes in animation, robotics, game design, and technology in the surroundings of a professional creative business. We practice what we teach: MakersFactory produces high level technical animations, product designs, and digital models for a wide range of local companies and creative professionals. This benefits both sides of our business: students see professional work all around them and are taught by practicing professionals, and our business clients benefit by the freshness and exposure to new ideas that our students bring. We blend education and experience.

new ways to learn and earn
Education itself is changing. A promising innovation is online learning; not just YouTube videos, useful though they are, but the phenomenon of MOOCs - Massive Online Open Courses with thousand or hundreds of thousands of students in a class. Stanford and Harvard both run such courses online. Education, like communication and creative software, will become yet another commodity available at little cost to anyone, anywhere. Being born in a Western country will no longer give you quite such a head start in life.

Our children will live in a world where today's expensive and difficult projects - developing an electronic product, making a movie, starting a company that markets its services worldwide, writing and publishing a book - will be accessible and affordable to anyone across most of the globe. The next generation of Americans will be competing against well educated, energetic kids from China and India who can live on much less than a Western income. They will be trying to find jobs at companies that find it cheaper and more flexible to outsource technical and administrative work.

But there is one area where being born in the United States may well continue to be an advantage. Ours is a society which excels in the creative use of technology. America still leads the world - and in my opinion will continue to do so - through its established centers of creative excellence such as Hollywood and Silicon Valley, and the character of its culture and its business climate. This is our strength and our future, and it will be expanded upon the skills and imagination of our children (by the way Santa Cruz, in that geographical respect alone, is about as ideal a location as you could find to educate a child).

But still in the geographic mode, the future is also a foreign country. What do we pack in our kids' bags before we send them there? Our parents' generation gave us shovels, pens, typewriters, and books: the tools of specific, static professions and skills. A little money helped as well. But now that future country is no longer solid; it is a maze of floating islands between which our children must swim in order to survive. The answer is that we give them the ability to design and make their own tools; the confidence and the skills to learn, change, and succeed no matter where they find themselves.

Education is the best (as well as the most enjoyable) investment we can make for our kids and for our society. As a Santa Cruz parent and educator I look forward to our challenging, fascinating, shared future.

Chris Yonge, MakersFactory, v 20130222a,, c 831 212 3458

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