Monday, April 12, 2010

Leif and His Home-made Matchbox Car Play Board - Sagamihara, Japan - July 1980 - Age 5

These days, kids can buy all kinds of fancy equipment for their little Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars. Some of that was available when Leif was small, too, but it wasn't what he really wanted and most of it was beyond his "budget," so he creatively made his own. This was a sort of city or traffic/street board he made to play on with his little cars. He used a couple of big pieces of poster board and markers to do it, and he had many hours of fun with it. He and his friends in the sort of "court" we lived in enjoyed it together, too. He wanted me to take a picture of him with it, but he wanted to show how big it was so he lay down beside it (in his pajamas) and put a car on it, too.

Leif had a lot of Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars, as well as ships and airplanes, and he loved to play with them. I know his imagination was always thinking up some grand story.

This was typical of my boys. They were very creative kids, always making something or figuring out how to use something in a new way.

This "play board" also reminds me of a project he had when he was in third grade at Red Hill Elementary School in Honolulu. He was invited to be in a class of "gifted underachieving boys," taught by a wonderful young man who knew just how to get them interested and motivated. Rather than loading these smart boys down with more of the same paperwork they hated, he challenged them with projects they could really enjoy.

The first one was to write exact "recipes" (instructions) for how to make an ice cream sundae, so good that someone who didn't know what an ice cream sundae was could make one, even an alien from outer space.

He told the boys that he would bring in the ingredients, as they wrote them, and proceed to make them EXACTLY as they had written the instructions. Leif got quite a laugh out of this procedure, because the first "recipe" began, "Take ice cream," and the teacher said, "Where should I take it?"

Then it said, "Scoop out two scoops,' so the teacher plopped two scoops on the table. The boys were roaring with laughter and said, "Not on the table," but the teacher said, "Well, you didn't tell me where to put them." They said, "In the bowl," and he replied, "What bowl? You didn't say anything about a bowl."

Well, you get the picture. They finally did get the instructions right and they all got to eat their sundaes out of BOWLS, with SPOONS, and the boys had learned something valuable about writing instructions.

This played into the next assignment, which was to invent and design a board game. It had to be a real, playable game, with a real, usable "board," and they had to write out all the game instructions. These third grade boys started out thinking this would be an easy project, and their heads were filled with grandiose schemes. They soon found out it was far harder than they thought it would be. They did get to work in teams. I think Leif worked with his friend Michael, who was a very good artist. Some of the teams never did really finish the project. Leif and Michael did, and their game was some kind of outer space adventure. Unfortunately, they left it at school with the teacher and never brought it home, so I don't have any pictures of it.

Leif loved that class and it was the one time during the school day when he was thoroughly motivated, proving that school CAN motivate boys like him with the right approach, but hardly ever does.

Unfortunately, the program was so successful with these boys that the next year the school hired a "gifted teacher" to institute an official program. That was a disaster for Leif and he did not participate, because the new teacher first of all used only academic/IQ giftedness as the criteria for inclusion. The IQ part Leif surpassed, far beyond the required number, but the school grades part he did not, and he hated just doing more and more homework and paperwork. So, a program that had been wonderful for him in the third grade became a failure for him in fourth.

However, he remained creative at home, drawing, building models, thinking up stories, and so on.

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