Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Walk backwards to the Elk story***

Walking backwards

Tom has taken to walking out of rooms backwards. He'll be standing there, watching Joanne and I in the kitchen, and it will occur to him that he should be in the next room. "Bye bye!" he'll say, and completely fail to turn around before leaving. Every once in a while, he'll keep offering "Bye byes!" as he heads out. I mean, he's still facing us, so why not?

I am constantly astonished at how often he tries something new, just to see what it feels like, just to gain a different perspective on this world thing we've got going. The boy's got no inertia, no reason not to experiment. Life is a block box to him, to be toyed with and poked at until it does something interesting. Why not walk out of a room backwards? Why not run in circles until you fall down? Why not touch this or jump on that or scream for no reason or just babble to yourself, to see what sounds you can make? Why not do something new every day? Why not?"

Why not?

Ponder on these words for now :)

Today's featured website is another of those leaves fluttering on a lonesome branch all by itself. Ladies, gentlemen and children, let the curtain rise without more ado on this incomparable production - My Life as an Elk, starring you and the elk, hosted at The National Museum of Wildlife Art, Wyoming, USA. Claps and whistles please!

The museum is a great treasure find by itself when you are in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon and can take some time out to browse its galleries. Its website is also ok, but nothing exceptional. Of the games it offers - Art tales is out of commission, and Rungius leads to an error message, so I have no idea what they are! Animal athletes is an interesting concept: it has directions for real life games like sharks and dolphins (a swimming tag game when kids pretend to be sharks and dolphins) or the missing prairie dog hole game (a sort of variation on musical chairs with children being the prairie dogs). I guess it'll come in handy when you have a bunch of kids all learning the same things about prairie dogs or such, and you can reinforce the message while playing.

So, the only actual online game is - My life as an elk, and its not really a game. More of an interactive story. But wow, what a story! Just goes to show how much you can teach with some imagination and hard work.

Right in the beginning, with the sound of elks baying in the background, you can choose if you want the narration on or off. If the child is old enough to read, go with narration off - it slows things down somewhat. But keep the sounds on: you don't get to hear those sounds often in the city! The next choice is that of female or male, and a name of course. Thereafter the story starts right after 'your' birth, and leads up to migration to the elk refuse in deep winter.

The palette of the storyboard is rather dull for small children, but it does bring out most of the artwork in the story - paintings and sketches with bit of info about them that you can discuss at the same time. With each change of scene, leaves fall, first green, then yellow-red, and finally snowflakes. Winds howl and birds twitter. At crucial junctures, you have to decide, as the baby elk, if you want to flee or hide, swim or walk - and each choice tells you something about the elk. There is just enough information to be interesting and not overwhelming. Such a lovely tool to teach children about the wild, about art, about natural history! What a pity that it is over so soon! And I do wish that they had made the artwork clickable, or at least had another section showing these in detail, so you could really look them over.

The url for the elk's story - http://www.wildlifeart.org/Learn/Games/ElkStory/
(If you want to check the other pages, follow the appropriate links above.)

Its not done to quote nearly half of another's post - especially when it only one interesting line behind. Of interest to me I mean. But I just couldn't find a way to get this anecdote of Greg Knauss at the blog An Entirely Other Day shortened without punching its meaning. He says it so well that I really don't wish to add any more to it.

Except to admire also his ability to see the magical quality of his son's simple silly antics. I would have dismissed it as nonsense. Or laughed at it, perhaps, if not scolding to 'watch where you are going' so as to not bump and break things. The knowledge of this rigidity of mine is a very painful realization, more so when I recall, albeit with the mist of time shrouding this immense distance, the wondering, curious, exploring young person I used to be... I need, my child needs, more flexibility, more bridging towards what I used to be; why and how did the responsibility that came with parenthood turn such a damper? Am I answering my own question here? Or just proving the point?

P.P.S. I have a feeling that I am missing something about Greg Knauss. Was he some pioneer of the blog world? Of the net? Someone I ought to know of but don't? He disappeared off the net sometime after this entry - I can't find any recent posts or activity in his name (reading the old ones though), but surely I am missing something! What do you know about him?

P.P.P.S. Oh god, not again! The font gods at blogger have once again chosen to impose their wish upon mine, and try as many times as I might, I just can't get the font changed in the first para. Sorry folks.

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