Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Help me design a summer contest & I'll send you a T-shirt

I'm itching for a contest to run. Got any ideas?

The "Ask The Kids" project last year was a blast, and we made many new friends -- who can forget "people monkeys" or "the evolutionary war?" So I'm trying to come up with the next funky way to get kids thinking about evolution.

Summer vacation is coming up. Hmm, summer... kids will be outside a lot. They'll get a zillion mosquito bites at the corner park. They'll go camping. They'll catch frogs down by the pond. They'll watch the fireflies come out at dusk, and maybe get freaked out by a slug.

While they're out there, maybe we can get kids to see the natural world the way Darwin did: with delight, with close attention, and with wonder at the relatedness of things. What's a good contest design that will help them do that?

Maybe we can ask kids to keep an eye out for the coolest/weirdest/most adapted creature they see over the summer and send us a photo or draw us a picture.

Or maybe we can give kids a simplified Tree of Life and ask them to locate the creatures they encounter this summer on it. Or better yet: pick two creatures they meet and figure out how they are cousins.

Or maybe we just ask kids to enjoy their experiences in nature and write a poem about it, along the lines of these poems about nature and evolution for kids.

There should be some kind of creative entry for each kid, something we can post on the web and celebrate. It should be easy enough for little kids to take part, but also open-ended enough that older kids can get more elaborate. And as always, it can't be a pain in the butt for parents.

There should also be a reward for kids participating or winning. A prize or two of some Charlie's Playhouse products probably, or maybe an entry into a raffle. Or something else.

These ideas are early and vague. I could use some help, so I'm tossing it out there for input from you, my loyal reading public (hi, Mom). Any suggestions?

And hey, if we use your idea for the contest I'll send you a t-shirt of your choice! Rock on.


  1. Lots of great ideas there! Here's mine. Pick a creature alive today. Something with some interesting physical characteristics, like a giraffe, a pelican, or a cheetah. Decide on an environmental factor to change. Like, what would happen to if all of a sudden . It could be that plants all get shorter, the Earth warms up, the Earth cools down, there is more abundant water, or perhaps the animal inexplicably gets moved to another climate. Then ask the kids to write and draw how that animal would have to adapt to the new circumstances.

  2. I was thinking of something along the same lines.

    I love this Darwin quote: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change." Probably because I'm not strong or intelligent, but am good at putting on a sweater when it's cold.

    So, how about a contest for littler kids where they describe how animals they see (their pets?) adapt to the hot summer weather, and something for older kids like what Jenny describes?

  3. Most children are likely to visit a zoo, nature park, aquarium, Sea World (yuck!), or some other place with animals, even national parks. Instruct kids to take a picture, or parents take a picture for them, of whatever animal they find interesting. Learn about that animal, then learn about that animal's place in the tree of life, what it is most closely related to today, what are its ancestors, etc.

    One, they include the photo. Two, they include their own illustration of an ancestor. Three, they place the photo & illustration in a tree of life poster they make.

    I really like the idea of a Tree of Life project!

    A fave photo of my son and I with a tree of life poster:

  4. Naturally, I'm partially to poems. How about getting kids to pick one thing which has some special feature (a tree growing where there is a constant wind from one direction; crows mobbing a hawk; a raccoon that comes out in the day . . .) draw a picture and write a poem about it.

    Or how about thinking of the future? Imagine the world 5000 years from now (under water? covered with asphalt and houses? clean and green?) and then draw a picture of a human adapted to that world.


  5. I think a "How would you evolve?" contest would be good. Older kids can do a short essay, younger kids can do a drawing.

  6. Well, whereas I don't believe in evolution as how we came to be, I do believe in natural selection. If you really want to keep it interesting, get an incubator, 72 fertilized eggs, and after 21 days, those kids will get to see some real live pecking order at play! True story! Those chicks will start creating a little cast system of their very own right there in river city...