Inter-generational learning

Our material is multi-generational, appropriate for different ages. It is also intergenerational, meaning stimulating interaction and learning between generations, for example between kids and a parent, grandparent, or teacher (The European Network of Intergenerational Learning defines this as: “A learning partnership based on reciprocity and mutuality involving people of different ages where the generations work together to gain skills, values and knowledge”.) That is our vision. 

Beyond just appealing to separate age groups, we expect the highest payoff when children and adults explore our materials together. When kids see adults engaged and adults see kids engaged, inter-generational learning occurs.

All our games and models are low threshold but high ceiling. Low threshold means very young kids feel the awe of nature’s patterns, and have fun with the games and activities. High ceiling means offering near endless potential for exploration and extension. The sky is the limit to what you can do. The phenomena we explore, animal predation, peer pressure, patterns in leaves and trees, hexagon bubbles, honeycombs, appeal to young kids, but show complexity that continue to challenge even professors. Nature’s patterns have an appeal to all ages, endlessly challenging any curious observer. While human societies have tended to artificially divide curricula into different age-groups and different subjects, nature’s patterns offer a seamless whole that we exploit. With fun life pattern games and technology, we can offer models that cross subject boundaries and appeal to all ages. By revealing the simple rules underlying nature’s patterns, we can take joy in simplifying what otherwise would seem complex.

Over the years, we added more outdoor activities and stories to make patterns more accessible to all ages. Yet the activities and stories would bore no age group. If you wish to skip and activity, you can go right to the code or games. We submitted four of the cardboard games to many rounds of professional play testing to be sure they were fun, strategically interesting, and clear. The cardboard games have rules simple enough for young kids to play with adults, but the games (except the Mountainkin card game) have strategic potential challenging to any age group. 

Can my 5 year old learn from this?

Our games and storybooks are fun for parent-child interaction. Our pattern awareness activities and Scratch exercises work well for kids as young as five. Actually, we first developed the activities with our three year old daughter. Our three year old loves the leaf rubbings, seeing the bubbles we blow turn into hexagons, beehive patterns with cardboard, two of our storybooks that go with the games, the Scratch story animations. She knows how to run the Scratch animations on the computer, and start the robot programs. She plays with the cardboard games but, as of age three, doesn’t get into the rules. Yet we have seen four and five year old kids enjoy the games with their families.  Mountainkin card game works for even two kids aged four or five, as does the accompanying Scratch program. Little Tip and Tolerance board games are clearly fun for five year olds to play with their family. The spiral coloring book works for any age, as do all our movies and Scratch programs, and most NetLogo programs. By the time your five year old plays with all the subscription boxes for year one, she or he will be six, and be ready for more advanced subscription boxes in the next year.

As we mentioned earlier, the games and exercises have a low threshold, meaning a young kid can appreciate the fun and experience the awe of the patterns. Yet the ceiling is high, meaning even an aged professor can learn more about the self-organizing patterns of life, and develop better code to model the pattern formations.

I’m in college or preparing for college. Is your program appropriate for me?

Our games and models have endless potential for exploration and extension. They appeal to young kids, but also show complexity would challenge anyone with curiosity.

You can choose to spend less time on activities. For example, the college oriented can skip activities such as leaf rubbings, bubble blowing or coloring spirals. I will point out, that we enjoyed these activities quite a bit. The activities make models more concrete. The coloring has a calming meditative effect. Yet they are not necessary. 

Similarly, the college oriented may skip the Scratch models and go straight to the NetLogo models or Python code. For example, we offer easy to use models of floral spirals in Scratch, NetLogo and Python. You could skip the Scratch model of spirals, yet it may be instructive for you to glance at the Scratch models before moving on, or to look at the simple movable block code in the Scratch versions to better understand the more advanced code in NetLogo and Python. 

In addition, we have an extensive textbook written specifically for the college oriented or professionals. The textbook comes with interactive models and an appendix of models created by our previous college-aged students. Our textbook on modeling collective health and accompanying models are part of a track we offer for college students or professionals looking to increase their repertoire of skills. This text is written in a style appropriate for a college aged audience or older. Several of the same models we cover in this book are the basis for our games and Scratch models, so one could play those games in high school, or in grade school with family, and then “graduate” to the level of this text.

The book focuses on health conditions affected by collective action. Collectively shared conditions include resources such as clean air and water, food and land, public services, public space or threats to these shared resources, such as a contagious disease, spreading pollution, overutilization of public services or overcrowding. Thus, the methods we cover in this text book apply to a wide range of collective behaviors in social networks.