Published on December 19th, 2014 | by Julie Finn1
Kids Level up Their Eco Skills at DIY.org
DIY.org uses an achievement format to encourage kids to learn and hone crafty skills.
I have a couple of the craftiest kids on the planet, and even so, I’m telling you that it can be hard to teach kids the real-world, hands-on skills that we want them to know.
Some of this is apparently because I’m very lame and boring and uncool, and my older kid, polite as she is, has nevertheless begun to give the side-eye to some of the super-fun activities that I suggest, such as teaching her how to change the spark plug on the riding lawnmower, or how to cook the perfect baked potato (so that she can cook dinner instead of me–gee, why would she ever give the side-eye to *that* innocent plan?).
Other problems, of course, arise because my skill sets don’t always align with her interests. “Oh, you want to build a koi pond? Sure! We’ll just… um… dig a hole… and… get out the hose, maybe?”
Fortunately, my two favorite things about technology are 1) its ability to empower everyone, especially kids, to learn what they want to learn and do what they want to do, and 2) its potential for presenting information and encouraging people, especially kids, in ways that interest and engage them.
Enter DIY.org, one of my favorite sites to see my kids playing on during their screen time.
DIY.org uses an achievement format that’s similar to the Girl Scouts and the Junior Rangers, both programs that both of my kids adore. As with these programs, a kid picks a topic (here called a “skill”), completes activities (here called “challenges”), and when she’s completed the requisite number (here it’s three), she earns a patch (here it’s virtual). My kids love any kind of visual display of their achievements, and I love that, too–it’s a more more meaningful token of positive reinforcement than most other crap that adults come up with to reward kids. Seriously, if my older kid comes home with one more candy “prize” from the robotics class that she already enjoys plenty without candy, then I am going to freaking flip out. Who needs candy at a robotics class? There are ROBOTS there!!!! Playing with ROBOTS is the prize!!!!!
Okay, that was a tangent. Carry on.
The other thing that I especially like about DIY.org is that even though it’s online, it’s not solely tech-focused. Mind you, I love my STEM skills–robotics class, remember?–but I love my hands-on, real-world skills even more. There are plenty of hands-on, real-world skills here that get kids learning, and that often get them surpassing my own adult skills in certain areas. My older kiddo has already earned her Backyard Farmer patch by practicing the gardening and chicken-tending skills that I already know, for instance, but when spring rolls around, she’s already promised to complete this irrigation system challenge, which is something that I’ve never gotten around to figuring out. I still tote water to my greens!
Here are some of my favorite eco-friendly challenges from DIY.org:
beekeeper. This skill could actually lead a kid into the hobby of beekeeping, but it’s also a great one for simply learning about bees and the impact that we have on each other’s habitats.
cardboarder. Kids can learn to build WAY more cardboard constructions than I could ever think up to teach them!
clothing maker. I sew, and yet my kids could easily surpass my own sewing skills if they completed all of these challenges.
forager. Identifying wild edibles is a terrific life skill.
forester. I may know how to plant a tree, but how to safely cut one down? My kids may end up teaching me this one.
gardener. A kid who doesn’t want to be a backyard farmer or a forester can still be a gardener.
home builder. This challenge teaches kids the basic home repair skills that many adults don’t know.
mycologist. That’s mushrooms, friends. Mushrooms.
salvager. Kids can make anything from trash.
shelter builder. A tree house is in the plans for spring.
weaver. I really need my kids to teach me how to knit.
Okay, here’s another thing that I like about this site. Yes, when they’re on it, they’re still sitting and staring at a screen, the act of which quietly drives me nuts even when *I* do it (right this second, as I’m typing, there are about a million things that I’m itching to get up and do, going to the bathroom being only the first item on the agenda). However, none of these challenges can be completed on that same screen. Yes, some of them are computer or digital challenges that must be completed on other screens, but the majority of the challenges are completely offline. Many challenges get kids moving, get them outside, get their hands on tools–all that stuff that’s so good for their bodies and their brains, but that they can forget about in their desire to sit and stare at screens.
If you’ve introduced your kids to DIY.org, I’d love to know your take on it. Do your kids like it as much as mine do? Have they learned some really cool skills through it, too? Does any kid *really* ever complete that “Build a Bow” challenge under the Archer skill?
Because mine are out in the woods behind the house right now, searching for saplings to cut down and let dry for the winter for spring bow-building. Maybe they’ll cut down an extra one for me!