Friday Follies: Why You Should Lie to Kids, Part 1 – Brain Brigade

Martians are among us. It’s me, Mrs. Brainiac, back to share more of her knowledge about science and technology. The movie, The Martian, was actually based loosely on the creative NASA Mars Survival plan. Some of the science is accurate, some not so much. Even NASA and Time Magazine agree that there are least nine NASA technologies that are real.

MARS ONE, a non-profit organization, plans to send a group of astronauts to Mars in 2020 and every 26 months thereafter to establish a colony. Here are the primary qualifications listed on their website: “The astronauts must be intelligent, creative, psychologically stable and physically healthy.”   Resiliency, adaptability, ability to trust, curiosity, resourcefulness and creativity are also mentioned.

Sounds a great deal like participants and instructors engaged in the novel learning in some Maker Spaces that I know of. STEM and STEAM instructors understand why these are top qualifications for a trip to Mars. People who take calculated risks and like to brainstorm with others to solve problems would do great on Mars.Those kids who like to tinker and fabricate parts for their projects-they’ve got grit! They could survive on Mars.

I’m not saying you should send your kid on a one way trip to Mars, but wouldn’t you love it if your child had the skills and intestinal fortitude to survive no matter what happens? The fun thing about the process of developing these skills is the kids don’t realize that’s what they are doing when they hang out in the Maker Space. They think they are just “goofing around” or “having fun messing around with tools and computers and stuff.” Ask them. Not one of them will say “I’m productively participating in activities designed to help me learn from mistakes, collaborate with others and develop skills that will help me become a contributing member of society with a satisfying career instead of ending up a civic parasite like my mom’s sister.” Okay, maybe my kid would say that. And she does have a point.

So, back to why we should lie to our kids.

Remember the Mars Rover back in 1996? NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Mission (MERS) was pretty exciting for Jerry Brainiac. To help his fourth grade students share in the astounding  phenomenon of a vehicle on Mars tooling around taking pictures and picking up rocks, he let the kids CONTROL THE MARS ROVER! Right from his classroom! (Lie Number One).

The Mars Rover

Public Domain,

How did he do this? Well, gather round and I’ll tell you the tale… He built a Mars Rover model that was about eight inches tall. Then he bought a plastic kiddy pool and filled it with the reddest colored sand he could find. He put the pool full of sand in a storage area somewhere in the school where no one would look. (Behind the boxes of white Melamine lunch plates and stainless steel forks that hadn’t been used in the school cafeteria since 1968 but everyone was afraid to throw away. Mrs. Brainiac’s grade school only had plates, we weren’t allowed to have utensils. But that’s a blog post for another day.)

In the olden days, before common folk could access the internet, there was a behemoth called the Apple IIE computer which ran Lego® TC Logo software. The students would program the Apple IIE to move the Rover. (Lie Number Two). It took 45 minutes for radio signals to get to Mars (true), so Jerry Brainiac would take a floppy disk (whatever that is) and load the commands from the Apple IIE on it, run to the storage room (probably leaving a ten year old “room monitor” in charge, ahh, the good old days) and load it on to another Apple IIE that was tethered by a cable to the Mars Rover model. Nothing was infrared or wireless then, no Bluetooth. Really, that part is true! The computer program would move the Rover and he would stand on a chair and take a digital photo from above and print it out.

Apple IIE

Forty-five minutes later, he would show the kids the photo he downloaded from the satellite (Lie Number Three) and the kids would see the Rover moved where they programmed it to and then plan the next move, avoiding obstacles like boulders and crevasses.

The kids had a great time programming and running the Rover and learning about Mars and outer space. So, go ahead. Lie to your kids. It’ll make them smarter.

Next blog, Part 2 of Why You Should Lie to Kids, will be about the time my teacher-daughter, Jessica Brainiac, took her fourth graders to Alaska on a plane for a field trip! Really! (Lie Number Four.)

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