What’s wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

US Treasury visits TFA Classroom (promo photo)
US Treasury visits TFA Classroom (promo photo)



The Curiosity Cycle by Jonathan Mugan

Summer is here and I just had the pleasure of reading a new book for parents by Jonathan Mugan, Ph.D, entitled, “The Curiosity Cycle: Preparing Your Child for the Ongoing Technical Explosion”. Though the book is geared towards parents, it is applicable and essential reading for anyone working with Young Children or to those longing for greater insight on how the world is changing so quickly.

First and foremost, Jonathan’s writing style, natural curiosity and good naturedness shines through and makes the book accessible to everyone. A Ph.D in Computer Science with a focus on Developmental Robotics, Jonathan writes directly to the parents of young children and leads us through his thinking in a gloriously enjoyable read. How he manages to make such a dense subject light and airy is a testimony to his deep thinking, sense of wonder and expertise in learning.

In the first chapter, “Constructing Intelligence” Jonathan shows how Children Construct Their World through concepts, models and the testing of those concepts and models. He shows how the cycle of curiosity leads a child to construct, deconstruct and reconstruct a continuous web of knowledge that underscores the importance and uniqueness of supple thinking in the human animal. The Curiosity Cycle is filled with everyday conversation models to engage in with your child in order to further his or her thinking.

The Curiosity Cycle gives parents specific games to play with their child that explains why Tic-Tac-Toe is such a wonderful game to play with Young Children and even more importantly, why parents shouldn’t let their child win. “Problems lead to Transformation” Jonathan explains. “Think of an argument as a cooperative job to get to the truth” andIt’s funny how in order to learn something you have to admit you were wrong.”

Jonathan explains how “Embracing the Absurd” and finding “Everyday Magic” helps develop creativity, an essential skill for the future as robots will not be able to replace that quality easily. He shows why and how talking about complicated world problems and systems become accessible to children by creating metaphors and soap operatic stories. He emphasizes the importance of these metaphors as leading children to develop more supple thinking, a skill, he points out over and over in The Curiosity Cycle, as essential for success in a future increasingly dominated by automation and robots.

“If you were to walk up next to a guy in the year 100 and tell him about boxes that play music by pulling invisible energy out of the air, you would be called nuts.”

“A seed is an incredible machine. It somehow converts dirt matter into a tree that can be 100 feet tall.”

“If you get a cut, the skin amazingly heals itself. It is like the new terminator in Terminator 2.”

Jonathan cites a motorcycle racing contest in which a favored designer failed to launch his motorcycle because he forgot to flip a switch. He points out a colleague noted, “The real mistake was not forgetting to flip a switch…(but) in designing a system that forgetting to flip a switch could so easily end in failure.”

His insights on computers and robot “thinking” help us see humanness in a completely different way. He shows us “why a toddler is more creative than a computer” and the unique ability of human potential for creativity. “Computers don’t know it only rains outside” he points out, again adding to the differentiation between simple knowledge and supple thinking.

“To be safe from robot replacement, your child should consider a career that requires a lot of either creativity or manual dexterity.” Jonathan Mugan leads parents, teachers and anyone interested in the nature of learning through the internal dialogue of the mind of a human and gives concrete examples, games and anecdotes to help parents and teachers nurture these qualities in their children.

Jonathan Mugan’s fresh perspective, accessible writing style and natural sense of wonder immediately capture the reader. His funny matter-of-fact manner delightfully captivates and draws you into a new view of the world. This book is essential not only to parents, but to teachers who are looking for what qualities are needed in working with young children who face a world in rapid change. The Curiosity Cycle is an essential bridge of dialogue between parenting, learning and teaching in today’s world.

NYSAIS Outline

Tech and ECE

Educators: We Are All in Process of Becoming Literate: It’s Overwhelming to Do yourself (Working in Isolation)



Presents and Presence

Well, do you put the update at the beginning or the end? It always feels like the last post or the last presence is the final one and yet it all mangages to keep going. I think last year I said, “this is my last year of making presents” and I know for sure I was uttering that while trying not to say swear words in Kindergarten while making this next one….

I didn’t update this last year. It’s January 2015 now and I’m still on vacation. I guess now’s as good as time as any to remember last year. Here’s the photo of what the kids made for Jane Hirshfield:


I thought she seemed kind of fuzzy and cozy so I thought yarn was good to use. Like her hair. It seems pretty good now that I’m writing it all up, but just before I wrote this I was thinking, “this is stupid”. People probably don’t even want this stuff. I got my brother’s family a giant solar system mobile for Christmas. I could tell he didn’t like it. They are trying to get rid of stuff and they don’t have much room.

It was still the same one as the last year. We weren’t talking then, just like now.


Seems I’m on my fifth year of presence and presents. This one was for Edwidge Danticat and the Good Lord knows I did not know what to make. I was wracking my brain to think of something.

Several days before: “Have to dream up scalable secret project today for a famous writer. Still no ideas other than it has to be done in secret w a hint of danger.

“Something w hems BC hems are secret…. Words sewn into the hems of something…can’t do shawl…a belt? Something softer…”

“I still don’t know what to make. Will only have 2 or 3 days. Hems, graffiti, danger. What can I make?!”

Finally, the morning I was supposed to start it just came to me “A tote bag kind of thing. Sewn. With secret hems inside it. Appliquéd. Will dye the fabric. There’s going to be story treasure boxes inside the bag in case she ever gets writers block these will unblock her.”

The kids secretly passed the cloth from kid to kid on the playground to sign it. No one told the teachers. Kids from 6 miles around, it felt, all snuck into the Kindergarten to help, exhilarated by this simple danger. This is what it looked like all finished:

Kric Krac Ric Rak Treasure Box


Somehow I can’t yet post the picture of the whole assembled Treasure Box. I feel like its supposed to be kept private so the magic can work its magic.

I wonder why I talk to these famous authors through these gifts. I try to climb inside their writing, though I rarely read their books. I get grouchy. I get emotional. I can’t think of much else. I have glue and dye on my hands for days. But then the gift is given and there is this relief and elation, this wonderful feeling of accomplishment that something is created new and especially for them.

I think about his nose and for some reason french toast. I remember that time our eyes and smiles met. “We were together, I forget the rest.” Well, I guess that freaks some people out! Oh well! I’m happy to have had the fun.

Create dangerously folks, there’s only one life to live!




Well, I’ve been making presents. Two within two weeks of school, (more on this later) which is a lot considering carrying the full workload in addition. Anyway, this isn’t about that vs a place where I can keep both the record and the memory.

The first one was in 2009 for Paul Muldoon the poet. I had the Kindergarten illustrate some of his haikus. They turned out great. I am not sure if I have a photo of any of them, I will have to look and dig up.

I was living in the hovel at the time. I remember having a really great Christmas that year. Snow and being in my own space for the first time really ever in some ways. I sat and talked to Mary on myspace a lot that year. Changed my myspace Christmas song like everyday. And followed Santa on twitter. It was fun. I had a porch and long grass in the backyard because the landlord was an awful slumlord.  It was a disaster of a place in so many ways, but I liked it. I was still playing w the camera a lot then. I took photos of one of his books. It’s a poem about a triangle. Here’s the photo:

The next was for Jonathan Safran Foer. This time I scaled it for Kindergarten, First and Second grades because Paul Muldoon had liked the illustrations so much and I felt the kids should have something to give these great authors. Aren’t little kids always supposed to make things for people? Anyway, we did. This time a giant map of the five boroughs of New York City. It was huge. And since it was a girl’s school, somehow the American Girl Doll Museum ended up being as prominently displayed as the Empire State Building.



I had just broken up with an insurance guy who lived in New York City. More like, he had just broken up with me. I’m still not sure why to this day except he lost his job and poof! he just disappeared. I never put the two together until way later. I’m not even sure they go together, but there, its a memory now.

The next one was for Jhumpa Lahiri. I knew it was to be a piece of jewelry. She was our first woman author and I just felt jewelry. A necklace of names.  It turned out really beautifully. She was wearing a black dress and the water colored bits of paper just popped when she put it on. Her whole being just changed. A little gasp came from the audience when she put it on, it was all such a stunning picture. I will never forget that. There are no photos.

I was dating the drummer and I needed to wear something I could make things in. I remember he looked twice at my choice of a dowdy long green sweater and whatever else. I told him, “I have to wear this because I am making something today.” He never knew about the necklace.

The last author gift was for Naomi Shihab Nye. We gave it just a week ago. You know, its quite a thing to make something and give it away. I mean, of course you want to give it, that is your entire intention behind the making of it. I bet parents know what I am saying. You know, you put your heart and soul into something. To make it out of air and release it. It’s quite a thing. Anyway, for her I knew weaving right away. This time I made it from Kindergarten all the way through 5th grade. Wounds and weaving, binding, healing, ribbons, imperfections, the poems of children, I don’t know all that’s in there. Here it is:



She loved it. I must say, she really did. She even emailed me a note. I could barely mumble back a reply!

It’s where I am now so it’s the hardest to know. Buoyed by so many successes but still reaching. Alone and yet incredibly connected. It’s a strange place to be! Excited but still shy. I know. People say., “Shy? You Heidi?” Yes! Shy me! 😀 Maybe it will be better to update it later and see what memory I have then.

I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to create things for people. Especially writers. Presents and presence. I’m glad each one needs the other.

Much Love to All,


Fostering fluency in 2012

Well, this one has been brewing for a bit. I start, I stop, I lose my train of thought. Oh if I could only insert a zip drive thingie into my head sometimes! Maybe then I wouldn’t lose the thought before it gets from my brain to the keyboard!

I just posted a video I made with my class. It documented the process of one of our projects. After I attended #cmk11 w @garystager it became all about process for me. I knew beforehand that learning, real learning, is in those visible yet invisible moments. Visible to the teacher who can see the lightbulb, visible to the parent who can reflect and see the progress their child is making, but often invisible to the person themselves. And what is rewarded in our lives and society is often the product, thereby obscuring this mysterious stage even more.

I’ve come to think of it as the sleep mode, or the chunky mode a kid goes through when growing. They go from a little chunky to suddenly shooting up and going through three shoe sizes in two months! It’s this time of seeming stagnation, our nightly sleep, the winter, that helps us spring forward and burst forth the bloom of our efforts and work.

And everyone grows and changes at their own rates! Which is why what I teach a child now may not embed itself until much later, or why values parents instill in their child at a young age will suddenly surface as their Mom’s voice calls out from somewhere inside their head “don’t do it”. Just because something is dormant doesn’t mean it isn’t as alive and vibrant as a forsythia in full bloom. Dormancy is the yin to forsythia’s yang. It works this way in learning, too. 

It’s why we need vacations and summer and weekends. And it’s why I shun terms like “continuous improvement”. True improvement (a word I find derogatory btw) really doesn’t look all that continuous, at least within a span of one, two or three years. And certainly the more you improve, the lesser are the measurable increments of that improvement.

I think about my own learning when it comes to technology. I look back a year ago and reflect and think, “I didn’t even have a blog yet!”

True! At least the #kinderchat blog didn’t get up and running until January of last year. Wow! I look back and see all I have done, learned, made in just a year! Amazing I must say so myself! Now I have 3 wikis, 3 blogs, 4 websites and 5 twitter accounts. There’s more but it starts getting embarrassing. 😀

I by no means- NO MEANS even consider myself “proficient” in technology, but I would say I feel “fluent” or at least approaching some degree of fluency! And fluency is the whole reason this blog post came to be.

Did it all happen in one year? Well, sort of, but if you look at the extended timeline, it started years ago. But once I broke through that initial barrier, things got way easier and my confidence and curiosity, way stronger.

So often we try to teach (teachers, children, students, anyone anything) by instruction. I am beginning to recoil at the word! “Here, let me instruct you on how to do it. Oh, and btw, here is my 16 page outline of my guidelines and policy on how to be successful within the given instruction time.” In the past, we called this learning. In the present, we are often forced to call this teaching as well.

There is a huge difference between the word “instruction” and the word “foster“. I was thinking about this in the car today on the way home from school. One is hard, the other soft. One is teacher centered, the other requires the teacher to be learner centered enough to know what to even foster. The past is sharp edged categoried boxes vs the now of circles and swerves.

And who has fostered me? Helped me? Been my guiding light over the last year? The fabulous teachers, educators and friends of #kinderchat and the mentors I have found here on the internets!

I am very grateful to all who have shaped my learning and helped me “feel fluent” in technology and in life. Here’s hoping 2012 brings the world and each one of you more joy and fluency in whatever field you choose and more love in life and learning!

on merit pay