No. 09 — 🎄 24 ideas for holiday season 🎒 Schools of trees, logic and poetic computation
Christmas CAPTCHA and binary trees
My name is Linda. I write a bi-weekly newsletter about computer science, childhood and culture - and there are 9627 of you listening. If you enjoy this issue, please share it with anyone you think may find it useful.
Seven years ago I was working on a daily advent calendar for Ruby. I had just moved back to Helsinki from New York and was looking for momentum, some kind of permission to start working on the children’s book I had been talking about. My drawing sucked and the stories limp.
Looking back, making drawing a daily habit was the thing that turned me from reaching for a noun, into a verb and helped me have the confidence to illustrate instead of trying to be an illustrator and write, instead of trying to be a writer.
I haven’t tried a countdown calendar since. But this season is unlike any December I’ve experienced, so here are 24 ideas for welcoming some stay-at-home holiday spirit and a little computing education, both for parents, teachers and curious grownups.
24 computing ideas for December
Bake cookies in the shape of hardware.
Make ice lanterns, lanterns from tin cans or jam jars or anything that holds light. Study binary letters and create the first letter of your name.
All holiday cooking is an opportunity for some decomposition practice.
Craft your own holiday cards and send to friends. Or, print out Ruby themed ones I made a few years back.
Create a book advent calendar - a packaged surprise book to read every night, either from a local bookshop, thrift store or a library. Here’s a nice selection of code-inspired ones and a list of different language versions of Hello Ruby books.
Learn to fold a christmas tree napkin and write out the algorithm for others to learn it too.
Decorate a christmas tree (or build a hardware spruce).
Take an evening walk around the city to look at the festive lights and maybe spot things related to Internet.
Start a diary for kids to record countdown to Christmas, including especially pictures and mementoes of the pandemic year and it’s digital pocket treasures.
Make homemade playdough and add glitter for some extra effect. Or buy from a store. Try recreating some of your favorite apps.
Kids from Newburgh designed the village christmas lights and they are so delightful. Design and create completely unique light decorations - shop your own LED lights and other equipment from Adafruit.
London Computing has a selection of great Christmas Computing projects - I especially love the Christmas Greeting algorithm and the Computer jokes.
Print out a colouring page. Mr Printable has the coolest ones.
Create a holiday themed CAPTCHA and discuss how you’d train a machine learning system to understand the concept of Christmas.
Pretend play - the kids are robots and their task is to collect Christmas objects from around the house. Focus the hunt around classifying and grouping similar objects, such as objects of a specific color, texture, or shape.
Repeat the hunt, but this time collecting and sorting old toys and other things to give away as a donation to a local charity.
Try making pixel art of holiday imagery.
Paper chains are fun to make, cheerful and include easily ideas of binary numbers in them.
Make an obstacle course for the little robots in your family - the robots have their eyes covered and the programmers give instructions for the hopping, crawling, walking backward, balancing and rolling through the course.
Visit a virtual museum. Here’s a list - each family member chooses a museum and curates three pieces for everyone else to see.
Fill a basket with pine cones, berries, and other treasures of nature and make decorations. Practice pattern recognition skills.
In computer science, a linked list is a linear collection of data elements whose order is not given by their physical placement in memory. But here it is a selection of things I’ve been reading lately.
For more seasoned programmers the Advent of Code is a tradition and a joy: 24 small programming puzzles for a variety of skill sets and skill levels that can be solved in any programming language you like. I’ve seen implementations ranging from Ruby to Minecraft! Here is a sneak peek to the 2018 puzzles and answer examples.
How “Forest Floors” in Finland’s Daycares Changed Children’s Immune Systems is such a feel-good piece of research (and another case of me Finnsplaining). Pair with Josh Morin’s Curriculum of Treeschools.
Logic School is an online, experimental school for tech workers and looks like something that could help me through the winter pandemic months. Applications close December 22. Check out also the offering of School for Machines, Making and Make Believe and School for Poetic Computation for inspiration and self-development. If there is a silver lining in this time, it is that the possibilities of education are opening up for someone living in a small city like Helsinki.
I’m hoping to surface and share stories from all of you and I’d love to see your creations! Or hit reply and answer me:
Has your family or school tried something like the countdown calendar? If yes, did you enjoy it?
What ideas would you add to the list above?