Candy as reward in school

You might not agree with any of the sides in a debate as much as you support one. The teachers' strike that started in June 2014 lasted into October. This was a grim reminder for parents of their helplessness in the power struggles between the politics of society and the politics of its unions. Finally when teachers were back in class the sense of relief was accompanied by renewed awareness: we - parents - have a considerable responsibility to keep our eyes open to make sure our interests are not compromised.

A few years ago when our daughter was in grade three we’ve already had a short exchange with her teacher. Last year, with another teacher, there wasn’t much discussion on that topic but we had a sense that there’s still something going on. Not too bad: our daughter is really careful and responsible. When it comes to school and candies, school and sweets, I’ve noticed that the challenge of keeping our kids away from stuffing themselves is a complex one. We have Halloween and Christmas, this event and that. And we have teachers handing candies as rewards in class.

I’m sure we all want to see our kids encouraged by their educators to excel. But again, I don’t enjoy the realization that candies are used as rewards by teachers. For me and my wife candies and sweets should stay out of the toolbox. When I say toolbox, I mean the various methods teachers use to engage with students in class.

I would be more than happy to realize all parents, staff and admin agree with us. However, reality usually has its own way of living. There is a debate over this issue that can be seen through quick browsing on the web. The following is a small sampling.

“As parents, we help our kids develop the lens through which they see food. Will they see snacks as something to do when they watch TV or are bored or will they snack as a way to refuel between meals? Will they seek sweets as a reward for their hard work or look for other constructive ways to feel good?” (source)
"Giving children candy as a reward is like saying, ‘Here is something that is not very healthy for you as a reward for being good.’ Does this make sense?” (source)
Just Say NO to Food Rewards (source)
Student rewards…that aren’t junk food! (source)
Eliminating ‘candy bribery’ in schools (source)
Other Links: PDf detailing constructive rewards; PDF of an article in oposition to candy giving in class; Debate platform with room for comments and voting;

Many kids, maybe to a degree all kids, see school and teachers as a source of authority even if one to challenge. The use of candy as reward is nutritionally unhealthy and morally questionable. Rewarding with candy can backfire on many levels in the future. However, my guess is that this topic is one that parents and educators alike are a bit confused with, maybe embarrassed or even unaware of its importance.

Nevertheless keeping this discussion open and ongoing is an opportunity to better understanding between us, members of a fragmented community with a mutual interest: successful growth and development of our kids.

Your Inner Mars Bar

This is a story from when our daughter was about six.
Inbal heard me talk about chocolate when we’d finished dinner and learned to know that I was just talking about it. We were not going to have any.
Suddenly she just started crying and nothing really made sense. No matter what we said she kept crying and the tears, pouring out her eyes seemed like a leaking roof on a rainy night. In an effort to find a way out of the tragedy I told her (knowing it won’t work but what tha heck) that I like sweets too. 
"I walk past the candy bars at Safeway many times" I told here, "There were occasions when I’d purchased a Mars Bar and enjoyed it. But in general, sweets are not healthy food and we try not to eat too many of them. It’s been quite a while now that I pass beside the Mars Bars and tell them: 'today I am NOT going to eat you'.”
Inbal’s gaze changed from miserable weeping to compassionate curiosity:
“Next time when you don’t eat the Mars Bar bring it to me”.
And this was it. The crying stopped.
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The challenge of keeping our kids away from stuffing themselves is a complex one. This post is a side story to another one in response to the use of candy as reward in school.


Audience Looking for a Story

Process needs a storyboard; results need an audience.
Some breaking is done by hand, other times tools are used
I've been developing a glass mosaic making course in the last few weeks. Starting with a discussion at Kona Stained Glass on Knight & 33rd, I wanted to get my hands "dirty" so that I can get a sense of what my students are about to experience.
Cutting glass is magical. You scratch the surface slightly and with very little pressure you drive the whole piece to open into two. Even with a straight line it still fascinates me to hold my fingers at the base of the score line and crack my door into the material. But then come the meandering lines. The glass can just as easily follow your path.
Starting with the image of an actual scene, surfaces are defined to generate the proposed concept.
Not everyone who joins a glass mosaic making course is comfortable or skilled enough to plunge into every step of the way with confidence. This is why people sign up to take courses in the first place. You might not expect all the revelations that will inspire you to continue but you sure hope to get rewarded for your investment.
Dividing the surface into a grid generates a playful module
But the making of mosaics is not about mosaics and not about making. It's about storytelling. The story is personal and evolving. It can be the process of making the mosaic piece that will become the story; what brought you here can be part of it; and maybe there's an image that bubbled inside your head that is waiting to be expressed.
The better the pieces fit together - the better the result
Who is the audience for this result and where in the storyboard can you see them coming from?


Fresh Roots Dig It

In our daughter's School's exploration of adding value to the educational experience, we've had a discussion with Fresh Roots.

On their website they say that they "transform underutilized spaces into thriving gathering places through urban agriculture. More than growing a garden, we grow community."

A quick visit to one of their locations in Vancouver allowed me to get an impression of what that transformation could look like.

In Norquay School, there is a nice play area, a few planting beds and vast gravel surfaces where kids roam in breaks and after school hours.

What my crappy phone-camera managed to capture is a compelling proposition for at least some of our school's yard.

Some of the photos are not that bad actually and of course that's not the point of teaming up with Fresh Roots.

Urban societies today are in a fascinating crossroads of defining many of their habits, including the act of farming their own produce.

Exposing kids to the possibilities at school age seems like a healthy way of keeping them connected to their source of life and hands on understanding of what sustainability could mean.

Farming is a labor intensive engagement. The friendly people at Fresh Roots may encourage more of us to reclaim the fun that is also part of it.

This Back Yard farming operation is located at the Vancouver Technical Secondary.


Drop Shadow - In The Making

I met Michael Shandrick at a design thinking event back in 2011. This whole series of documentation was inspired by a conversation I've had with him a short while ago. We were discussing processes. In response to his description of a script he was engaged in writing, I've asked him about the possibility of him posting the story. He seemed pretty intrigued by the idea. As we were exchanging more thoughts I've realized the same idea could apply to me. This is the fourth post following First StagesResurrection and Statement.
Just a minute or two before our walking tour of Vancouver in the Design Thinking unConference

As soon as I embark on the act of executing my thoughts, the process itself is a form of result. However, it is also an exploration. You could even see it as an adventure, where not all the answers are known. The creative process can be planned in detail yet reality imposes hurdles in many forms. Time and money are the most basic of them. Proper planning helps in balancing the many components that the process entails as it unfolds. However, people get sick, accidents happen, new ideas come up. You can't anticipate everything.
The beauty of a process exists in any of its stages.

'Drop Shadow' as a work of art is an analogy to this process. When I had started working on it, the plywood squares I was painting on, represented pixels of the digital world. Technically, I've placed them together as one surface and occasionally shuffled them to add a new layer of paint. That has generated a degree of arbitrariness to the composition. A pixel is like that. It is a sort of canvas that accommodates whatever info is directed in its way. When all the pixels together form an image that makes sense to us, communication exists.
Scale is a fascinating feature of space.

As my world expanded into the urban realm, my interest in reflecting that in my art inspired me to look at "my pixels" with a new sense of purpose. For me, a city is the most complex product of human society. Its most challenging complexity is the fact that we are one of its components - its most important one. Without the city our lives would be something else. Without us, it won't exist, or at least slowly degrade into oblivion (have a look at this).
Reflections happen with smooth surfaces, within computer programs and in your head.

In this process my camera and computer were used as painting accessories. Taking photos of the acrylic squares had allowed me to manipulate the image before continuing to add paint. The desktop monitor enabled an enhanced flexibility in viewing the work and experimenting. Planning and execution progressed very quickly following decisions made over a compelling variety of options. Plywood, as a building material, allowed me to cut existing pieces and further play with their layout.
The side of a building in construction where the concrete pouring "imperfections" are still evident. 

This layering of processes is what I find compelling in everything I do. Whether it is an idea or an object, a present reality or a vision for the future; when I look at them as raw material, my options of action are wide open. The story is the action that connects everything together. Each story sheds a light of its own on our existence.  Light and shadow play equal roles in our sense of space. If for no other reason, naming my project 'Drop Shadow' sounds almost inevitable.
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This post was actually posted on August 28 2014. I had meant to publish it on the date that appears here but simply lost  track of my list of drafted files. Interestingly, in Blogger you can control the publishing date to reflect your interests.


The making of Drop Shadow - Artist Staement

Among the layers of creation, a statement is the artist's way of articulating the outcome for the viewer. Whether this explains the work or adds mystery, is a matter of choice. I find it intriguing to provide a statement that is both. The previous two posts (First StagesResurrection) mainly dealt with the timeline of working on 'Drop Shadow'. Apart from beauty, I want my work to provoke thought and nurture discussion. Open minded communication with my audience can generate new ideas and insights. The following is my statement for the show in July.
Our built environment is a result of generations of growth and interaction. In this body of work I'm reflecting on components of life and setting them in a pattern that supports new directions. We all come together on an individual journey and find the commons we need. The city is a body with endless faces. The way from which you look at it can change how you feel about and in it.
'Drop Shadow' is a process in which I contemplate the move between stages, the changes in time and scale, the balance between resource and allocation. From a young age I've been intrigued by the constant development of tools available to us. When I started using Photoshop I very quickly developed a variety of processes that allowed me to generate the features we needed for my team's projects. Then a tool called drop-shadow was introduced that in a single click created most of what my process had involved.
The city is our most complex tool and changing it seems to be on a larger scale than we can imagine. Within the arbitrary motions of fitting components together, a sense of order evolves. This sense of order is a source of both strength and weakness in all of us, individuals and societies. The need for change repeatedly shows itself. The effort to change is many times bigger than what we've thought or even hoped it would be.
'Drop Shadow' is merely a work of art. My work on creating it involves traditional arts materials such as acrylics and pencils. However, computer and various hand tools were a significant contribution to the results at hand. In 2003 its various components were constructed in a certain way. Revisiting them more than a decade later has allowed me to relate the small scale of revitalizing their existence to my current state of engagement with urban design. The effort of tweaking an established body of work involves finding the right balance between existing conditions and the boundaries of my imagination; between past, present and future.
My search is in how to turn this effort into play.


The making of Drop Shadow - Resurrection

My previous post (Drop Shadow - First Stages) ended with me leaving my art stored since 2005 for a few years.
Then, in 2010 came my parents' 70th birthdays. It seemed like a great opportunity to take a look at what I've had and make something new out of it. This time, a square plywood board was selected to be the background and support for the whole composition. To make the small squares truly interactive, simple elements of hardware were employed. Making sure to work with an accurate template, I've installed screws at the back of each square so that one can insert each piece in any of the nine spots on the background board. I'm not sure my parents play with combinations of the various possibilities but they sure can, and that was my intention.
A little later I tried a down scaled version for a friend's wedding. Instead of a stained background I took a bunch of color pencils and worked on visually relating the pieces. Instead of nine squares floating above the surface I've selected three from the existing acrylics on plywood pieces.
Pressing the pencils on the background boards, there is a physical connection that forms between me and the surface. I enjoy the transparency of pencils where you can gradually add strokes and the color becomes more pronounced and still the color beneath shows itself. By contrast, acrylics tend to just cover the layer beneath. The difference between media supports my narrative of urban change: the effort of tweaking an established infrastructure involves finding the right balance between existing conditions and the boundaries of our imagination; between past, present and future.
My current state of the process is nearly ready with six pieces. They all use plywood boards as backgrounds and pencils in various degrees of application. There is a wide range of styles between them and still they seem to form a coherent family of objects. I am intrigued by how they will look when I'm done. Notice in the small works the similar pieces in blue. As my use of tools allows me to plan and anticipate the process, what I'm showing here is an approximately what they will be. On this, I will expand a bit later.


The making of Drop Shadow - First Stages

In July of 2014, my acrylics will be displayed in Bean Around The World coffee shop on Main street in Vancouver. Following a process of restructuring and re-purposing a set of pieces that were stored in my basement, the show I call Drop Shadow will go through what might be considered a resurrection.
After moving from Israel to Canada in 2002 I decided to explore in more detail the process of painting and dealing with artistic expression. My first encounter with canvas and acrylics had happened just a year or so before. That explosion of color and emotions had stayed with my friends Yoav and Michal. In Canada, instead of canvas, plywood, which was readily available to me, was selected as my surface of choice. Another item from the past has been, in general terms, the three dimensional nature of the result. I am used to looking for the relationships between elements in space. Some of my previous dealings with acrylics involved found objects that I had attached to the surface as part of the composition.
Metal and wooden frames; wire and mesh hanging systems
My process has yielded two types of framing: metal and wood. The frames, being part of the composition, were used as the structure that holds the plywood pieces suspended in the air. Here too, I came up with two versions:  wires intersecting each other to form a 3 x 3 grid and a mesh stretched between the members of the frame.
Conceptually I considered the plywood pieces to be placed in any of the locations available within the composition and any orientation. Eventually they were attached rigidly to the mesh or grid from behind. I didn't worry with this too much but knew I would come back to that issue sometime later.
Ground floor in Cuppa Joe coffee shop (2003)
Eight items hung on the walls of Cuppa Joe on 4th Avenue West for the month of April 2003. A gallery in Gastown was next to host my art. Unfortunately it shut down just before my turn came up for display. In August of the same year one of my pieces was juried into a group show on Granville Island. After that I was already busy developing my ceramic designs so the art stayed mostly in storage until September 2004.
Wave participated in the juried show Painting On The Edge
When my ceramic pieces were displayed for sale in a gallery in Steveston, Tamaka, the owner invited me to have my acrylics there as well. She had called me to pick up my paintings after about a year of moving around the walls of the gallery without a buyer. A day after that call, a woman from Germany came by and paid Tamaka for one item to be shipped abroad. Suddenly I could use the term "sold internationally". However, I was focused more on my design interests and kept my art stored for another few years.
Daubs was the first to be sold.
In the next post I will go through the process of reviving Drop Shadow: Resurrection.


Open Media with the Design Nerds

"The question mark is our exclamation mark," I say as we stand in front of the room. "We have to keep on asking questions so that the challenges we generate provide us with insight to better understand the realities we are facing. Education through a variety of sources and venues allows us to become informed so that the decisions we make sustain us within the society we live."

A Design Nerds Jam starts with an introduction by a speaker or two who provide the framework of the event. The guest host on Saturday, 25th of January was Reilly Yeo, Managing Director of OpenMedia.ca.  

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Browsing through the questions posted on the walls, my feeling is that they come with a predetermined agenda.
This is a strange question. If anyone in the room has a business to run, wouldn't they want to be able to charge for their services or products so that they make profit that supports their livelihood and that of any of their employees?
When you subscribe to a certain service, you're offered certain programming. It's up to me to negotiate the terms of our engagement with the company we are buying our services from. I have disconnected cable years ago and haven't felt like I've missed anything.
I see "NOTABLY LIVE SPORTS" and think: "OK, we want better access to media content for what purpose?!" Isn't live sports a venue where the masses escape from meaningful participation in social issues? Well, I find the way this question is framed somewhat ironic.
When TV services in Israel expanded into more than one channel, it was already evident that the American population was growing to be hooked on the crappy content they were provided with. I've always had a naive belief that people eventually grow out of distorted strangleholds of media companies. Education is key to better understanding, awareness and choice.
When the internet became easily available there was much talk about the revolution in content consumption. The interactive nature of this tool ignited the imagination of many thinkers. The reality we all live in is that not a lot of action is taken within the vast fields of opportunity. The general public is a random collection of individuals who are usually taking the path of least resistance.
When I first unsubscribed from the cables, I wasn't sure it was the right move. As a designer, shouldn't I stay in touch with what's happening? It turned out to be a great move: not only was it right but it turned out to be a blessing: I've gained more time for things I'd been neglecting; my exposure to inspiring content has improved and there wasn't any noticeable change in my feeling of being connected.

It was only a few days after the event that the real challenge became clear to me: "what are the questions that I would have asked?" 
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I came to this Jam to "explore how matters of digital access, choice and affordability affect our daily lives, and propose solutions that put people first." After the introduction session we are all presented with a variety of topics to choose from, brainstorm ideas and come back to introduce our conclusion in a two minutes presentation. As the five of us in the Wild Card group exchange thoughts around the table I'm happy with my choice. A heated discussion over a variety of topics starts almost without delay. 

Tom, the funeral services guy introduces himself just before me. He gives a very interesting account of the strangle hold the Big companies in his field have over small businesses. I find it fascinating to realize how every issue we raise ignites streams of consciousness that can take us all over the place: the enthusiasm of a speaker can be inspiration to some as much as intimidation to others; the information shared will always need to be verified; every word is a trigger to countless associations to other thoughts and ideas.

Jared, the product designer is joining me in doodling as he speaks. His drawings are much nicer than mine. I hope to see the images soon on the design nerds' pages as I haven't taken any photos apart from the notes on the walls. We kind of jot down reactions to things that are mentioned around our table or thoughts that come up in reaction to one another. 

Tara, the Communications PhD student also writes words and circles them with red lines. Julien, our facilitator realizes that our intellectual meandering is threatening the coherence of our presentation. What is our story? For me, this is it.

"The question mark is our exclamation mark," I say. "We have to keep on asking questions so that the challenges we generate provide us with insight to better understand the realities we are facing. Education through a variety of sources and venues allows us to become informed so that the decisions we make sustain us within the society we live."

I really enjoy the practice of coming up with a coherent message after only a brief exchange of ideas. Just before moving on to the main hall to deliver our summary, I've noticed in my peers' papers words and phrases pretty similar to mine. "The scale in which we operate determines the outreach of our actions. But when we consider the concept of accountability my question to myself is where am I accountable? Our demands from big corporations start in each of us as individual members of society. As soon as my own goal is beyond the scope of my resources, my reliance on others tilts the priorities of my decisions."

This is why my first doodle was the question "WHAT IS OUR STORY?"
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I'm always impressed by the undertakings the Design Nerds engage in. My effort of participating keeps me trying to join. Being a design nerd myself, traps me in the reality of looking at everything from more than one direction and distance. So the questions naturally arise. When you start asking questions, the process of education is natural. My interaction with others requires accountability which will always tie me to the scale at which I can operate. The question mark is definitely my exclamation mark; and the other way around.


Smellicious: What is the control that you’re willing to let go of?

Utopia with the Design Nerds

Gathering around the theme of utopia, our group is meandering between seemingly nonsensical expressions of imaginary realities of the future. We have decided to take 2064 - fifty years from now - as our destination in time. For a few moments I was really about to just pack everything and leave. However, sticking with the guidelines of the Design Nerds, I made an effort to accommodate the process. It turned out to be an intriguing event with valuable points for thought. 

Utopian story proposes a vision that allows a moment of reflection. Among other ideas, we've come up with such: no one is required to work for a living; free transportation is available for all; animal-and-vegetation rights have been integrated into the social structures in human society. As our discussion had progressed our story has become a little more coherent just before we had to stand in front of the crowd.

Here is a short recap of our story as I remember it. I might have introduced some of my own interpretations in an effort to make sense of some issues. However, the credit goes to all who participated in the evening at the Hive. Over there the Design Nerds are responsible for inspiring valuable discussions that all aim at positive change to our life on earth.


The year is 2064. Global ecosystems have fallen out of balance in the late twenty teens. This collapse was followed by a wholesome voiding of economic structures. Without much notice, a quick change in humans’ sense of smell (olfaction) ensued. After millennia of loosing our olfactory communication skills, human society suddenly regained its connection to animals and plants. With new social realizations, vegetation and animal rights became central in policy making and enforcement through the judiciary system.

With a newly found use for odours of all kinds, animals and plants are now consulted in issues that until not long ago have been the sole manifestation of human interests and needs. Extraction of resources is directed by insights that are generated through quick smelling exchanges between humans, animals and machines. Fabrication of any new product, be it electronic devices or massive infrastructure developments is monitored through an elaborate network of sensors, plant material, animals and humans. Anything manufactured in the world maintains a capacity to retract so that it can be re-used or returned to nature without harm to its environment.

Atrocities of the past such as formal possession of pets, experiments conducted on animals, and much more, have come to an absolute end. The plant and animal world has been relieved from an immense source of hardship. These systemic human-centric abuses have been recognized as crimes against nature. However, no trace of stench related to memories of past oppressions could be detected coming out of non-human organisms' glands.

Paradise Lost

In a pretty short exchange among mostly unfamiliar people, some ideas shared around the table find a thread to weave a story. The process has been a hit and miss affair in my experience with the Design Nerds. When I had first seen the announcement for the Utopia evening I was intrigued. Although the experience challenged my patience, it was a worthwhile challenge. One member of another group has provided an interesting insight: for her, utopia is probably a reality that we've lost. The Utopian story can be seen as an effort to reclaim what could be right about our world. 

The gathering this week provided me with an opportunity to explore my own process of engagement. I keep coming back to a question that relates to my expectations from society and from myself. What is the control that you’re willing to let go of? If nothing else, I will check that out in the next session of the Design Nerds on January 25th, less than a week from now.