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2009 December 30 [Wednesday]

Teach kids Linux and Science via games

Some weeks ago, I had asked a women-only list how to engage a bunch of 5-12 y.o kids with science and math via linux in a fun, engaging way. Telling kids to learn foo-programming language is not my idea of a fun learning experience. My dislike for multimedia learning tools in pirated CD's with propreitary software extends to gizmos like playstations and Wii (no offense).

I'd love to see floss tools that teach algebra and geometry in a fun way without the scary "math" word, but existing floss tools are highly limited in quantity and mostly target the pre-teen and teen's for Science learning. Think alice.org, which is at the other end of the spectrum expecting some user/learner contribution, a wee bit much for a 5-7 y.o to grasp. 

When I saw a similar post by Adam, who is looking for kids games, the thought of sharing the interesting responses these women gave came up but I cant post their experiences sans permission, so I'll just post the links and names of the games they responded with.

#0. Squeak or Scratch.

#1. MIT also has the physics simulations gallery on their Scratch site.

#2. A TED talk by Alan Kay about teaching kids

#3. TUX racer game.

#4. Yahtzee game.

#5. Mahjongg. [I think this is a good pattern matching and visual game]

#6. A hello world programming book for teens and maybe even pre-teens.

#7. World of Goo : http://2dboy.com/games.php [physics based puzzle construction game for kids]

#8. Blender.

#9. Pingus, available in the Ubuntu repository.

#10. Picocricket (basic microcontroller programming, sensors, actuators): http://www.picocricket.com/picoboard.html

Some links from Adams blog need internet access while others dont.

#10. http://www.neave.com/games/

#11. http://gcompris.net/  [apt-get the recent GCompris version from Thomas Petazzoni's Unofficial debian repo]

#12. http://www.neopets.com

Returning to games that you can install on your linux machine, there is a whole range of games available in the debian/ubuntu repos and your default Ubuntu installation categorizes the logic games under Applications>Games>Logic, and the ones which I like are Klotski, Five or more, Same Gnome and Sudoku. Some kids (under 10 yrs) love Mahjongg, but then some games are suitable for anyone interested enough to try it.
Having said that, I still feel that a machine cannot (and should not) replace the human touch. The natural curiosity of a kid's mind is something a machine can never replicate, currently atleast. That is where atleast one parent or relative or friend or teacher who makes science interesting will help a kid assimilate and relate to science a lot more than schools dumping linux or science on them in grade 5, or whenever it is that schools introduce computers to kids. For example, Just spin a yarn around the Chinese postman problem, and the kids wont even realise they solved a wee bit of graph theory.  This may perhaps be my cognitive bias speaking so i'll just echo Stephen's thoughts : http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2009/09/operating-system-for-mind.html (a must read).

2008 July 6 [Sunday]

Some food for thought

Did you know that :

A sliced Carrot looks like the human eye. The pupil, iris and radiating lines look just like the human eye... and YES science now shows that carrots greatly enhance blood flow to and function of the eyes.

A Tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart is red and has four chambers. All of the research shows tomatoes are indeed pure heart and blood food.

Grapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell and all of the research today shows that grapes are also profound heart and blood vitalizing food.

A Walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds are on the nut just like the neo-cortex. We now know that walnuts help develop over 3 dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function.
Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like the human kidneys.

Celery, Bok Choy, Rhubarb and more look just like bones. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are 23% sodium and these foods are 23% sodium. If you don't have enough sodium in your diet the body pulls it from the bones, making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body.

Eggplant, Avocado's and Pears target the health and function of the womb and cervix of the female - they look just like these organs. Today's research shows that when a woman eats 1 avocado a week, it balances hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight and prevents cervical cancers. And how profound is this? .... It takes exactly 9 months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit. There are over 14,000 photolytic chemical constituents of nutrition in each one of these foods (modern science has only studied and named about 141 of them).

Figs are full of seeds and hang in twos when they grow. Figs increase the motility of male sperm and increase the numbers of sperm as well as help overcome male sterility.

Sweet Potatoes look like the pancreas and actually balance the glycemic index of diabetics.

Olives assist the health and function of the ovaries.

Grapefruits, Oranges, and most Citrus fruits look just like the mammary glands of the female and actually assist the health of the breasts and the movement of lymph in and out of the breasts.

Onions look like body cells. Today's research shows that onions help clear waste materials from all of the body cells. They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes

Sometimes it takes science quite a while to learn what Nature knew from the beginning.