The misadventures of a first time father

Tag Archives: creativity

It’s Schoolhouse Rocky,
that chip off the block
Of your favorite schoolhouse,
Schoolhouse Rock!

School House Rock

Learning comes in all forms. Some people are visual learners. Some auditory. Some need to get their hands in the thick of it to grasp concepts the best. I’m of the belief that regardless of what kind of ways you learn best, we retain the most concepts when we’re having fun with those concepts. Sometimes it’s a project in school that got you jazzed to be taking part in, or a teacher that made you laugh while you learned. The association with your enjoyment brings back and retains the knowledge you gained along with it. 

And I think that’s why Schoolhouse Rock! has been a reference point for so many of us from the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and to my surprise, beyond.

In case you weren’t around during any of its original run or its encore, the Emmy award-winning Schoolhouse Rock was a series of short animation segments that aired in between various Saturday morning cartoons on ABC. With humor and catchy tunes, they taught elements of history, civics, grammar, science, math, and more. Its initial run lasted more than a decade, from 1973 to 1984, and came back with a mix of new and old episodes for a few years in the early 1990s. 

To my generation, they’re classics, but they’re the sort of thing I’ve always felt would end up being just a fond memory of our childhood when we look back on those halcyon days of Saturday morning lineups, a box of cereal, and toy commercials that flood through our nostalgia-soaked minds. So imagine my surprise when I recently walked into the living room to find all our children laughing along with the series, courtesy of Disney+!

Since the series was released on the streaming platform earlier this month, they’ve watched them over and over again, quickly weeding out their favorites, viewing them (and singing along) again and again.

There’s certainly no shortage of great entries in the Schoolhouse Rock series, but in no particular order, I present to you our kids’ top three Schoolhouse Rock installments to both educate and earworm!

 

I’m Just a Bill

The 1976 classic still gets a lot of play in our home, and its influence already has our 7 year old discussing the process of lawmaking in discussions. Spoofed dozens of times over the years, this one stands out as probably the most famous of School House Rock entries, with a walking, talking bill explaining to a small boy why he’s sitting on Capitol Hill, hoping he doesn’t die in committee, and can one day become a law. History rock that makes an impression – for any generation! 

 

Interjection!

Hey! Wow! Yeow! Hooray! They show emotion! They show excitement! Sometimes with an exclamation point or a comma if the feeling isn’t strong. A wonderful 1974 entry in the grammar themed segments, whether it’s a great grade on a report card, a shot in the bum by the doctor, or losing the big game, this drives home with various scenarios how much the words we use can express ourselves when used correctly. 

 

The Tale of Mr. Morton

One of the later entries into the series, this one comes from the early 90s but is no less catchy and fun.In the story of shy Mr Morton, the song teaches the grammar elements of subject and predicate. Our kids quote its small bits of dialogue all the time and I find myself walking around singing part of its chorus “Mr Morton is the subject of the sentence, and what the predicate says, he does.”


What about you? Were you a Schoolhouse Rock fan? Any favorites on your personal playists? Feel free to share them!


blizzard-snow-winterHere in the northeast, it’s supposed to be pretty snowy this weekend, and with no plans for us set in stone, we’re likely to be hunkering down inside as much as possible, watching the birds at the feeder in the backyard and likely a ton of PBS Kids programming. Maybe I’ll even make some popcorn.

That said, three kids inside all weekend long is a recipe for the “what can we dos?” or a case of the “I’m boreds.” Fortunately, we’ve found that one of the best tools in our arsenal is not a toy, or a show but a ream of paper. Well, and a box of crayons. Creativity can only go so far with a stack of blank paper and nothing to write on it.

Amid the drawings and makeshift storybooks that come out of the messy dining room table that doubles as an art studio is a fun littlegame our son enjoys that puts both of us to the creative test.

folded monster 01It was an activity we lifted from a magazine and recreated with just a blank piece of paper, folded into four sections, each with its own designation – head, body, legs, and feet. Whoever goes first, draws the head (of a monster, a robot, whatever) in the head section, leaving just a little bit of neck on the body section, then folds it over so the next person can’t see what’s drawn. The next person then uses what is exposed of the neck to draw a body and arms, leaving just a little bit onto the legs portion for a guide and again folds it over so the bulk of what’s been drawn so far can’t be seen. So on and so forth, until all four sections have been drawn.

Then, comes the big reveal, unfolding the paper to see what you two (or possibly even four if you wanted) have jointly, but blindly created.

Easy, fun and resulting some pretty wild stuff at times.

Give it a try. And if you do, drop an image or two in the comments and let’s see what you and your kids created!

folded monster 03


© Copyright 2013 CorbisCorporationAs years have passed and I’ve moved from high school student to college student, part-time worker to full-time worker, then full-time worker in the news business (which is a 24/7 business), becoming a parent (another 24/7 job), I have found my window of free time shrinking more and more. That has meant less time for family, fr friends, and for bring creative.

When you are drowned in your work from the moment you open your eyes, with emails, texts, calls, etc. until you go to bed at night, there is little time left for bonding, let alone to let your mind travel to that creative place it visited so much in the past.

I think that’s why I get so sad when I see old work or writings by my younger self.

I’ll be so proud at how imaginative it is. Then, I’ll realize how I haven’t been that creative in so long and I wonder if I’m doomed to a day-to-day hamster wheel that leaves my imagination outside of the cage.

WP_000088That’s why I leapt at the chance to take a workshop with writer J.M. DeMatteis back in May. With my wife’s encouragement, I headed out-of-town for a few days of creativity, writing and a re-awakening of something inside me thought to be long gone.

Called Imagination 101, I was among a small group of very talented individuals, spending our days, brainstorming, creating, encouraging and feeding off of each other’s energy. It was wonderful and it reminded me that if you don’t flex your imagination like a muscle, it will become just as flabby.

Even if it’s a little bit of time each day, it can make all the difference in the world. I admit it’s very hard to do, but I continue to try. I usually write after the little guy has gone to sleep or if I wake up on a weekend before he and my wife do.

What had happened over time was that, due to the lack of time, I would begin to look at a writing project that I once was so excited about as just one more thing on my to-do list. When that happens, it becomes drudgery, it became work.

If there is one thing for me to have walked away from the Imagination 101 workshop with, it’s that writing should be like play. If you can get back in touch with your nine-year old self and make whatever you’re writing the same kind of fun it was then, to make it like play, then your pilot light of creativity will never go out.

WP_000090

I thank J.M. so much for his inspiration and the encouragement of those in the workshop with me – Noah, Raymond, Nicole and David – you all helped me go back to the ‘real world’ with a recharged battery and a rejuvenated sense of confidence in my creativity.

Like Golden Age superhero Johnny Quick and his magical formula for super-speed, J.M. gave us a formula to keep that fire of imagination going:

Imagination + Creativity = Play



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