Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Cognitive Whizz's Science Escapade

Earlier this year, the twins were invited to join in Cognitive Whizz's Science Escapade workshop in  June. The twins have always loved science, and so have Iz and I actually. In fact, Iz was sulking - he wanted to join the science camp too! He couldn't attend as he was "over-aged" at 11 years old - the June Science Escapade was meant for ages 4 to 8.

Being 4 half days long (9.30am to 12.30pm each day), the camp took up practically a whole week. We had to shift other stuff around to make time for this camp, since the twins were keen on it. We hoped it was worth it, for you can't get back time spent.

I was also intrigued by the Science Escapade blurb on the poster as it mentioned famous kids books author Julia Donaldson and the characters in her books like Stick Man and Superworm. The kids and I have always loved reading and books, so this was a draw for us.
Science Escapade by Cognitive Whizz
Each day's lesson starts with Denise, the main trainer, asking the kids how they are feeling that day. Using flash cards and facial expressions and body language, she demonstrates a variety of feels and introduces a pretty good range of vocabulary to the kids.

Here are some of the words I managed to take note of: exultant, joyous, astonished, despondent, remorseful, daunted, jittery, vexed, frustrated and enraged. Out of so many words introduce, Denise would go on to focus on 4 words each day. Thus by the end of the 4 half day camp, the kids would have learnt the meaning of 16 words.

Given that the target age group is from ages 4 to 8 - this is quite a good standard of vocabulary. I was very impressed and surmised that it's a Science main course with a free English side. Isaac though, raised his eyebrows and whispered to me "I thought you said this was a Science camp?"

Next up, a dramatic reading of one of Julia Donaldson's books. The book for the first day was Stick Man.  I was indeed starting to wonder when the Science would come in... At the end of the book, we had our answer. The reading of the book and it's story, was to lead us in to the science! The kids were to help Stick Man get home to his family, by building a catapult to help him get home! Ah! Using the catapult and other examples, Denise proceeded onto the day's lesson to teach the kids the concept of Levers. Ingenious leading in! A nice touch!

Making the catapult
Denise discussed with the kids and introduced to them the concept of how elastic potential energy is turned into kinetic energy. The kids were provided with ice cream sticks, rubber bands and a spoon, to make their own catapult with - to fly Stick Man home! They all got to test out their constructions with a styrofoam ball as the load.

In another segment, Denise taught the kids how to identify the following in every lever
1. Effort
2. Load
3. Fulcrum

Next she got the kids to identify the above three parts of a lever in everyday items such as a shovel, tongs, ice cream scoop, a nutcracker etc. The kids even got the chance to crack their own nut.

Throughout the morning, in between segments, the facilitators would get the kids to stand and do certain exercises. There was the morning hello segment, and other activities that would get the kids up and moving as well. For young kids, movement like that is very welcomed, and I could see how allowing the kids to move now and then helped settle them and made it easier for them to sit still and do stuff at the table. It was a good balance that worked well.

The kids also got to make their own table-top basketball game which uses a small catapult to launch the ball into the hoop.

All in all, a very eventful morning, chock full of science theories and activities. This would prove to be typical for all four mornings.
Day 1:  Levers
Day 2: Pulleys and wheels
Day 3: Acid and alkali (base) 
Day 4: Air pressure

Lots of content, delivered in simple ways, to engage the kids and capture their attention. Key concepts and key words would be repeated over and over again to help embed this information in the children's minds.

Lever: Effort, Load, Fulcrum!
Cognitive Whizz is the brainchild of Denise. She has been conducting lots of hands-on science experiments with her kids since they were toddlers. With encouragement from her friends and family, she decided to run these holiday science camps so that more children can experience science in such fun and engaging ways.

Denise, as the main trainer, is excellent. Her energy level is consistently high, and her exuberance is contagious. Whether she is reading from a book or flash cards, or demonstrating a concept or experiment, she is clear and concise, energetic and loud enough. Many a time, the experiments are so engaging and interesting, that the kids tend to crowd forward just coz they're so excited! But Denise is able to be firm, yet kind, in telling them to sit back down so that everyone can see what is going on.

It also helps that they have a very good Facilitator to Participant ratio. In a class of less than 20 participants, there seems to be at least 4 to 5 facilitators, in addition to the main trainer. This translates to 1 Facilitator to 4 or 5 Participants - which is very decent. This results in the participants getting lots of 1 to 1 attention when they break into groups when to do their hands-on work. I eavesdropped on the facilitators as well - they're good! They know their content well, and are able to guide the kids effectively, and calm them down when the kids get too excitable or rowdy.

Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of science concepts taught. There were topics which I thought was quite advanced but Denise managed to simplify them concisely and teach the concepts to the kids. To top this off, I truly appreciate how Denise and her facilitators were able to manage the children without resorting to shouting or threats - as I have seen many educators do. I like how Denise uses positive and respectful language with the kids. This in turn sets the tone right for how the facilitators treat the kids, and how the kids behave towards one another. All in all, Cognitive Whizz has my full endorsement - highly recommended!

Cognitive Whizz - A Science Escapade! 2018
This time round, there are Disney characters involved! What's more, this time round, Cognitive Whizz has teamed up with Kidz Amaze @ Toa Payoh as a venue partner. Thus, every participant of the 4 half day (morning) Science Escapade can pop out for lunch and come back into Kidz Amaze and play for the rest of the afternoon till 7pm, for all four days! What a great deal!

I hear the December dates are pretty much filled, but if you're quick, you may still be able to register for the first run! Quote "TFC" before 17 November to get a special promo rate of $290. If you're to sign up for only one camp this holidays - let this be the one! 

Sunday, 8 July 2018

St Mary's Universal Arcade 2017

Remember my DIY Carnival Games? It started with me making the games for my three kids to play. Then we brought them to a few family gatherings where they provided much amusement... Next we tried it out with our church group gathering of more than ten families and it was a hit! And because our church group loved it (pictures here), we decided to give it a try using these carnival games as our main contribution to our Church of St Mary of the Angels' Feast Day celebrations last year. 

Our biggest attraction, literally, was the bouncy castle. It was HUGE! In fact, we had to carefully position the bouncy castle so that the lights and fans suspended from the ceiling would not be disturbed. We had the bouncy castle the previous year in 2016, which we manned, together with our jumble sale store. In 2017, we decided to try out combining Bouncy Castle with the Universal Arcade carnival games, rather than jumble sale. We wanted to still run a bouncy castle as it was a huge draw for the kids - they loved it!
St Mary's Universal Arcade 2017 - Bouncy Castle 
We quickly realised that our teens were all still kids at heart - they wanted to play too! So for the safety of our customers, we decided to split the sessions to segregate the jumpers by age. This way, we have jump sessions for younger kids, and sessions for teens. Thus, we ensure that our toddlers and young kids would not be in danger of being trampled on by the rowdy teens!

Our Sub-Committee in charge of the bouncy castle also planned ahead of time, for cleaning of the bouncy castle in between every few sessions of use. We stand by buckets of clean water and rags, to give the bouncy castle floor a wipe down every hour or so. All of us parents are all too aware of how dirty a bouncy castle can get with all the kids and teens getting more and more sweaty with every jump - thank goodness the hall is air-conditioned!

Come, let's go on a tour of our Universal Arcade games! Our awesome Children's Liturgy Team worked together to beautify the carnival games I made - which on hindsight, looked skeletal and drab in appearance. The people you see in the pictures are mainly our Children's Liturgy Team members tending to the game stalls. Yes, the kids too! We have our kids help out as well for they are useful members of our team and it takes a lot to tire them out :) So we adults are mighty glad of the help they could provide during this busy weekend.
St Mary's Universal Arcade 2017 - Villain Busters and Mini Mayhem
In Mini Mayhem, throw the hoops to loop the yellow monsters to earn stamps! It's that easy! My children hand drew the pictures of them and coloured them meticulously before I had them laminated. The laminated pictures are tied around a 1.25 litre soft drink bottle which we half filled with water to weigh it down.

In Villain Busters, players would be handed some squishy toy animal, and they throw it at the pictures of the villains! The pictures are actually flaps which will move back and let the item through when it is being hit! This game was made by the good people at Paper Carpenter.
St Mary's Universal Arcade 2017 - Flush It! 
One of our most popular games is Flush It! Just throw the toilet rolls into the toilet bowls! The top picture was posed for - the toilet bowls certainly don't stink!?!?! The toilet bowl covers were kindly loaned to us from Sinbor Company, and have never been used before, only for display. We simply attached it to cardboard boxes which we wrapped up nicely in fancy, snazzy wrapping paper! People simply loved this game coz it looks so cute! :) 

When we were planning our games for Universal Arcade, someone in our team saw a picture of such a carnival game online, and suggested we make a similar one. So we asked in our group whatsapp chat:"Does anyone have any spare toilet seat covers in their storeroom that we can use to make this game?" To our surprise, Edyll replied almost immediately, saying that the company she works for would be able to sponsor us the toilet bowl covers. We were astounded! Ask and you shall be given, says the Lord! :)

St Mary's Universal Arcade 2017 - Poke Kart
Another game which drew many onlookers was Poke Kart. Themed after the Poke Go game, players control a remote control car to certain checkpoints indicated on the track. Reach more checkpoints, score more stamps! The Poke theme is a little passe by now, so we're likely to re-theme this game into a Formula D racing car game.

Most of the walls of our Poke Kart track are actually bed slats which we found at the void deck. It wasn't ideal as the slats couldn't stand properly and we had to tape them to the floor. The shorter walls are made of thick cardboard protectors that came in some of the cartons of board games that I import to sell online. These weren't ideal as well, since they were relatively lightweight and would move when a car ran into it. We had to tape these to the floor too.

Now, once again, God provides! Just as we were thinking about how we were going to obtain suitable pieces of wood for us to construct a new race track for Universal Arcade 2018, we came across an opportunity for us to obtain such wood for almost free! Thus, thanks to an awesome stock of wood we got from Triple Eyelid Studio which they sold for very reasonable rates, we're working on constructing the new game track right now! So come visit our Universal Arcade 2018 to see the new track and play our games!
St Mary's Universal Arcade 2017 - Nerf Wars
What's an arcade without some shooting games, eh?! Well, we have two! In Nerf Wars - we use original Nerf Guns, of course. Shoot the figureheads of the dark villain and his soldiers to earn stamps . The figureheads were actually from a Christmas party bag that used to contain candy within. I saved the little containers coz I thought they looked so cute, and now they've come in handy!

In Howdy's Shootin' Range, you use Rubber Band Guns to shoot a target. Our home made target shooting range was made from cardboard, and Yakult bottles. Hit the targets to earn stamps. We generally don't promote violence, but a little shooting practice is good fun! Look, even a granny, and Fr Justin gave it a shot - pun intended! :) The shooting games were naturally a hit with boys of all ages! What's with boys and guns?!
St Mary's Universal Arcade 2017 - Howdy's Shootin' Gallery
Do you remember the flicking games Asher and Shawna helped me with? The twins loved the games they made so much, they asked if we can make a new one to use for the funfair, instead of using theirs! We made a new one which was bigger, and it got re-themed into "Feed the Ants". Flick the bottle caps onto the holes with ants' pictures on them to 'feed' them and earn stamps. Made entirely of card board and beautified by some good painting skills!

"Poo and His Honey Brunch" was a spur of the moment invention, using a mini catapult to bounce little bears onto the board in search of honey. Land the bears on honey spots to earn stamps! Once again, cardboard is our friend! So is Google :)
St Mary's Universal Arcade 2017 - Feed the Ants game, and  Poo and His Honey Brunch game
Eggs Run was inspired by an Easter Week activity that I helped helm at my kids' primary school the previous Easter. Easy enough to play, throw the eggs onto the egg trays and aim for the coloured spaces! Our Team gamely ate many eggs and collected many egg carton trays for us to paint and use in this game. No chicks were harmed in the making and playing of this game - they are plastic eggs! :)
St Mary's Universal Arcade 2017 - Eggs Run
You would have probably realised by now, our Universal Arcade games are very easy to play, but not necessarily easy to score - you need a bit of skill in most of them! This makes it fun and challenging for our players! You have to come experience them for yourselves! Like this game below, we have Park Your Car! Players need to send their car into the garage. Park your cars and earn your stamps! The facade of the garage buildings is a scrap collage project by Pauleen made of cardboard and coloured paper! Awesomesauce!
St Mary's Universal Arcade 2017 - Park Your Car
Another perennial favourite of ours are the hand mazes that are made entirely out of cardboard! I made the ones in cardboard brown, and the other two were done by Francis & Renne - what a stroke of genius to have a background image! Inspired by You Know What, players have to navigate the mazes to get to various checkpoints, in the shortest time possible. We have four mazes in all, two are simpler than the other two. So depending on your age, you get a different one. You're welcome to come try them all! Many people do! They are that fun!
St Mary's Universal Arcade 2017 - Handy Mazes
Last but not least, we have the Shield of Faith! Good Ol' Capt can throw his shields with unwavering accuracy so he must have put in many hours training his throw at a training facility like the one we have set up here! Throw the small shields into any of the rectangle holes, and earn your stamps! The small flying saucer shields are made up of some corn ware disposable plates that Ivy and I taped together with duct tape. We made sure they were decorated like Capt's shields. The banner is hubbs' expedition banner from the year before that was headed for the bin. I rescued it and it came in handy when we made this game. This time, it was Ivy who gave it an aesthetical facelift by taping up the holes in different colours and added the pictures of the shields.

We strongly believe in Reduce, Reuse, Re-purpose, Recycle. You can see that most of our games are made from cardboard boxes we have re-purposed. We reuse and re-purposed many things such as cardboard, plastic bottles, bottle caps, and wood. We're a green bunch, right here! We're learning and trying our best to be as green as we can be - to show God how we can be good stewards of His creation!
St Mary's Universal Arcade 2017 - Shield of Faith
You must be wondering what is this "earn your stamps" that we keep mentioning? Well, what are games without prizes to be won, right? So we have a huge Prize Redemption Booth full of prizes to be won! The bottom left hand corner of the collage below shows a St Mary's Universal Arcade 2017 Game Card which you purchase with your coupons.

Each Game Card gives you an entitlement of playing three different games - yes, any three different games of all the games listed above - not including Bouncy Castle. You need to buy a Bouncy Castle Ticket to have a go inside the Bouncy Castle. So after getting your Game Card, you look for a game which you wish to play. Wait for your turn, and hand the Game Card to the people manning the game booth. For each game, you will definitely get one stamp - for participation. Then, you can earn up to three more stamps per game you play.  You will be awarded stamps accordingly, depending on how well you play the game you have selected. Thus, in one Game Card, you will get a minimum of 3 stamps, and a maximum of 12 stamps.
St Mary's Universal Arcade 2017 - Game Card & Prize Redemption Booth
You may come to the Prize Redemption Booth at any time to check out the prizes still available for redemption. They will have a Stamp Value marked on them. So for example, the huge Transformers below needed a total of 200 stamps to have it redeemed. The collage below shows some of our biggest winners in 2017, look at their grins!

But worry not, there is something for everyone! We have small prizes available for redemption for as few as 3 stamps. So even if you only buy one Game Card and don't play the games well, you'd still be able to get a small trinket, at least! However, that hardly happened at all! Our Universal Arcade games are such good and wholesome fun, that many families came and had so much fun! We overheard people saying that "THIS IS WHERE THE REAL FUN IS!"
St Mary's Universal Arcade 2017 - Nestle Breakfast Cereals, Singapore
Not only do we have good fun, we have good value food too! Nestle Breakfast Cereals was so kind to send us cartons of cereal that have a few more months to their Best Before Date. They are simply awesome greensome to do that! Did you know that as estimated $200 million of worth of food are discarded in Singapore annually? Well, we're happy to say that Nestle Breakfast Cereals try their best not to contribute to that figure! We were all fairly familiar with Cheerios, but many of us were introduced to the Nestle Fitnesse range of cereals for the first time. Apparently, they contain over 40% wholegrain nutrition, essential vitamins and minerals including folic acid and dietary fibre. These healthy cereals were a big hit! Thank you, Nestle Breakfast Cereals!
St Mary's Universal Arcade 2017 - Grand Prize Winners!
Our Children's Liturgy Team had put so much effort, time and energy into making and sprucing up these games, sorting of prizes, worrying over logistical issues, manpower scheduling, marketing efforts and photography - all good photos in this post by Brian Ng :) As such, we were all ecstatic to see how well the Universal Arcade games were received. It gave us joy, and hope too, to see so many kids and adults alike, having fun with good ol' fashioned carnival games - with no electronic gadget in sight! Many a kind parishioner praised and thanked us for running these games, as they had enjoyed themselves thoroughly.

So, if you have enjoyed reading about the games above, you MUST come and experience most of them at our Universal Arcade 2018! In fact, it'd be most of these games, and more! We're planning and making them now, as you read this post! The main St Mary's Feast Day Funfair (tonnes of delicious food and other game stalls run by other parishioners) would be on Sunday 5th August 2018 from 8am to 3pm. However, Universal Arcade is also open on Saturday 4th August 2018 from 5.30pm - 8.30pm! So if you wish to beat the crowd and yet check out Universal Arcade - come on Saturday evening!

Church of St Mary of the Angels Feast Day 2018
Last but not least, in addition to our awesome Team, we had loads of help from our own personal friends and family, as well as parents of the children attending Children's Liturgy at St Mary's! They helped stock our Prize Redemption Booth! Not a single prize was bought by us! The prizes were all crowd-sourced from family, friends, parishioners and friends of friends. Our Universal Arcade would not have been the roaring success it was without the contribution of the awesome prizes we received. 

We believe, and we know, that many of us in Singapore are a privileged bunch of people that actually have a surplus of many brand new things that we still keep holed up in our cupboards and bomb shelter. These may include toys, games, bags, household appliances. Bring them out and donate them to us to use as prizes for our Prize Redemption Booth! We welcome used items as well, if they are in excellent, working condition. 

NOW is the time to declutter and send your good stuff our way! Small items such as stationery sets, small toys, and books, are also welcomed, but we are sorely lacking in big prizes that our big winners happily carted home last year. So now we need more! 

If you're in the West, drop off your items at the St Clare Hall at Level 2 of the Church of St Mary of the Angels at 5 Bukit Batok East Ave 2, Singapore 659918 - every Saturday in July from 3 - 4pm. If you know of any friend attending our church, pass it to them and ask them to drop off the stuff for you! :p Alternatively, whatsapp 94301421 - and we'd see if we can arrange something. 

Let the miracle of Five Loaves and Two Fishes, 2018 edition, begin!


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