Sunday, October 30, 2016

Extraordinaires Design Studio Pro: Review

I've been reading about "strewing" recently.  Sandra Dodd, who is an unschooling guru, wrote a post about putting things around the house that your children might find interesting.  I'm not a huge "strew"er.  I used to, when I was trying to "get the kids to learn."  But having a little more confidence with the process of unschooling at this point, I don't bother keeping maddening fraction manipulatives around to give them a feel for fractions, because cleaning them up drives me nuts.  Fractions are cool and I imagine eventually they'll enjoy fractions inherent usefulness and interestingness.  (Did you know that interestingness is a word, despite the red squiggle showing up as I write it?  I just googled it hoping to find a synonym.)

This morning I read something that really hit me strongly.  Someone asked about how much to get involved with being the initiator of ideas in unschooling (which is related to strewing) and this mom said that the simple act of saying "Yes" instead of "No" has been life-changing.  Letting the kids go through old boxes and drawers, touch things, mix things ("baking") in the kitchen, take apart old electronics, jump and use furniture.  She said things that she would have said "No" to because of inconvenience end up being tremendous fun and make up some of her best memories.

I still try to find trips that I think the kids will like and I still pull them out of the house to walk down the block to see a fat spider in an amazing web.  And when Timberdoodle sent out a call for reviewers, I checked out their products and requested ones I thought were age appropriate to my children and in line with their interests.

Since my 15yo has always been interested in animation and art but has disliked official art lessons, Extraordinaires Design Pro looked interesting to me.

For some reason, I thought it was for the computer and she would be able to use it with or instead of the Paint program she uses for drawing her figures.  This was an error.  Note to self: read things more carefully.

It's a game.  It is great to do with a few people together or alone.  In addition to art, it promotes thinking, creativity, and I read in a few places that STEM teachers got it for their classrooms.  Basically, it is a game that teaches product design.  It assumes that you are the product designer and you are designing something for a client. There are 4 categories of cards: Extraordinaires, Design Projects, Improvements, and Sketching. You "meet your client" (choose a client card, called an "extraordinaire") who has some unusual qualities and unusual needs.  Then you choose a design project card, which is what your client wants designed.  Then the other cards guide you as you plan and execute your design for what the client "hired" you to create.

It's sort of like Writing Strands insofar as having a guided assignment with a lot of room for personal creativity.

Here is a summary of my tenth grade daughter's assessment:

It's a visual guide for drawing. You have the option of drawing digitally, but the guide itself is physical.  I am disappointed it is not a program for the computer.  It is structured, and is initially a bit confusing and seems to involve quite a bit of effort.  But after sitting with it for a bit and playing around with it, it is basically a guide to help you visualize and draw a whole picture.

I think it could be useful for someone that does not know how to do that on their own. It provides questions to make you think of the history and small details of the character in the drawing.

It also helps when you don't know what to include in the backdrop.

The Extraordinaires are the characters. There is a selection of them to choose from and they each possess normal human attributes. For example, the Superhero looks like she is absolutely amazing, but even she needs a cup of coffee every once in awhile. It shows you that everything has more than one side to it. The design projects are little categorized cards, divided by objects (clothes, vehicles, buildings, etc.) that give you ideas on at least one thing from that category to draw. Improvement ideas are given with the help of Think Cards. These are also divided into the same categories as the Design Projects. They ask you specific questions that make you, well, think about what you drew. For each card within a category, it will give you three different topics to think about complete with three complementary questions corresponding with that topic. As an example, I have taken out the Think Cards for the category "Gadgets." One topic of the card is "Interaction" where it asks "How will the Extraordinaire interact with the gadget? How will their physical abilities influence your design?" I particularly like this question because it is more so something that goes over your head and/or seems a bit obvious. Say your character is a pirate and the gadget is a sword. What if that pirate lost his right hand? He would have to hold it with his left and, based on statistics, odds are his right hand was dominant, making it even more inconvenient for him. It also gives questions to make you think about design and structural ideas, such as "What if your gadget had to last 1000 years? What if it was disposable? How would you change your design?" Sketch and Present would be the full category. It says it on the book, you sketch and annotate your design to highlight specific features and details. 

Obviously there are a lot more tips and such, but those are the basics. I think this could be quite useful for both people who want to pursue art as a hobby and people who are striving for profession.

Timberdoodle recommends Extraordinaires Design Studio Pro as the self directed Art class in their 11th grade curriculum.

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