When Video Games Rocked

It’s a little known fact, but I’ve saved the world many times. Or at least destroyed enough invading aliens to keep the world safe. Until they destroyed me. And I had to put in another quarter. To defend Earth again.

Yes, in the late 70’s I was young and so were video games. Asteroids was my favorite, and no pun intended, I rocked. Who would have thought that in only a few short decades, my awesome Atari abilities would somehow start to seem…quaint.

Luckily, I have young minds to mold. Over the course of a few months, I take third graders in the Art Room through a crash course in technological design: we use clay to make ceramic bells, yarn and looms to make cloth, tagboard to design airplanes, and finally, computers. We look at old pictures of when computers took up rooms, and they instruct me about the gadgets of today.

To show them how much cooler video games used to be, I draw two lines and a dot on the board and tell them this was the hottest thing in 1972. They look at me crazy. Then I go to www.ponggame.org and let them try it themselves. Soon they’re all lining up for a try, and cheering at each point their friends score off the computer. They even beg me to give them the website address when they leave. One student said he couldn’t wait to show his dad.

Just doing my best to make the generation of tomorrow competitive in the late 20th century…

Bad Words I’ve Learned from Kids

When a first grader says, “Johnny called me the F-word!” I now know through careful interrogation it means ‘Fart’. I’ve  learned the same way that the S-word for the playground set is ‘Stupid’. A word so bad that they don’t even want to give it an alternate is what I’ll call the K-word: ‘Kiss’.

At this point, I don’t hear much that surprises me. That said, as the fourth graders were entering their classrooms this morning, I overheard one boy say to another, in a loud and annoyed way:

“It was a metaphor!”

They disappeared before I could learn more. I’ll go to my grave wondering what they were talking about. But it sounds like we now have a new additon to the lexicon: the dreaded M-word.

Hair #2

“Mr. Roth,” a fourth grader said to me today, “What’s it like to be bald?”

“Uh, well…”

“It must be cool,” he said.

I stroked my stylish stubble. “Yes, you think?”

“Yeah. You don’t get any lice or bugs.”

I wish I was making this stuff up.

Invasion of the Micro Aliens

Vampires, zombies, dystopian societies, and now…tiny aliens? Let’s hope so. My latest work is about a ship of micro-travelers that crash into a boy’s thumb. Not exactly the stuff of popular trends, I know – except that David Wiesner’s newly released picture book, Mr. Wuffles, is also about a stranded ship of small aliens! (plus a cat, probably for marketing purposes).

David Wiesner’s books are amazing. I use a number of them – Flotsam, Sector 7, Tuesday – to tie into art projects with my students. Wiesner has also won the Caldecott Medal three times (a record, I believe), so he’s obviously no slacker. I’ve – ahem – actually taken a workshop with him – traded tips, shot the breeze. You know.

Anyway, If Mr. Wuffles is any indication, then maybe I’m on to something. The next big thing! Or maybe I’m just chasing a trend. Or maybe (panic growing)  the trend is nearly over!

In any case, check out his awesome new book. And try not to come up with any conspiracy theories about how Mr. Wuffles (modeled on his own cat) looks almost exactly like my own cat, Moon. There’s not a chance he’s spying on me for ideas.

Or is there…?

17165875      IMG_2484

Mr. Wuffles                                                   Mr. Moon

Hair Today…

I have a poster by my classroom door that pictures a bunch of famous artists. The other day a third grader in line turned to me and said, “Mr. Roth, you’re like Picasso.”

I stroked my chin. “Yes? How so?”

“He doesn’t have any hair.”

Before I could speak, another student stepped forward to defend me. “No, look, you’re wrong,” he said to the other student. “Picasso has hair on the sides.”

They studied the picture again. “Oh, yeah.”

They’re lucky I just handed in grades.