Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Snake at the party

 Breakfast with Sidharth and Nikhil the other day turned out to be a testing time for me.   I  found them  test me on  corn snake.  ‘Do you know why they call it a corn snake ?’, asked Nikhil as he was mid-way through his morning cup of yogurt.  Snakes and spider are not the kind of things we usually discuss  at breakfast  table.  But then Nikhil, and brother Sidharth had been to a birthday party the previous day , at which  some wild creatures from Oakland Zoo   - snake, spider, lizard and the like – were among the special invitees. It was their friend Akshay’s birthday. And  the seven-year-old is said to have flair for  wildlife.  And his parents had the  small animals to the party. 
Sidharth and Nikhil said they  even touched  the snake.  The  zoo staffer, who brought the small animals to the birthday party  ran a minor workshop on corn snake for the  children.  Sidharth and Nikhil came away from the party, fairly knowledgeable about lizards, spider and  corn snake.
 The lady from Oakland Zoo is seen taking the caged animals out the car at  Akshay’s residence in Danvile C A.
At our breakfast table the next morning  Sidharth held forth on  corn  snakes ;  said they are so called because they  sneak  into corn fields  to prey on mice.  Corn snake is a friend of the farmer because  mice  cause damage to his corn.  And a snake can smell mice from afar, though it can’t see them . Snakes have poor eye-sight, says Sidharth.  When I chipped in with the suggestion that they could wear glasses, Nikhil  laughed  at me. His point was  you can’t fit  eye-glasses   on a  snake that doesn’t have ears. Both brothers ruled out contact lens. As Sidharth  put it,  snakes were not designed  to have proper vision. So eye-glasses or contact lens wouldn't help.
 Oakland Zoo, under their education programme, sends on request a select  few small animals to educate and entertain children at  birthday parties. Akshay’s  father  had  filed an application in priscribed  format to the zoo authorities to have the animals over at their Danvile C A  residence for the brithday party.
 Under Zoo Mobile scheme, the birthday child (ages four and older) and their friends will meet four small animals, most of which can be touched. The birthday child will receive a Zoo gift to mark the occasion. A ZooMobile party is fun, educational and entertaining. The zoo makes available zoo animals only for birthday parties  for children turning 4 and older.   Pets must be kept in a separate room. Children under 3 are not permitted to touch the animals.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

San Francisco: Sidharth’s eye-view

At the end of a week-long  summer camp  organisers of Camp Galileo at Danvile C A  showcased the work done by schoolboy participants. Parents were invited  to  the show,  ask questions and to  express their  opinion. The week’s theme was San Francisco, and   the campers were given a  sense of  life in the city, its history and were told about  places of interest. They were encouraged to draw and build cardboard and paper models of San Franciso landmarks.
Sidharth made  models of the San Francisco cable car, the Golden Gate Bridge, and  a  painting of Lombard Street, which is more widely known as the croocked street. What is it that he would want to do the most, on a visit to San Francisco ? 'Walk across Golden Gate Bridge', said Sidharth. Till a couple of years back, his most favorite activity in the city was running around in Union Sq. chasing pigeons. He didn't fancy traveling in cable car after trying it once .It made too much noise, he said. Sidharth preferred taxi cab,not only because it made virtually no noise, but also because he doesn't have to sit in a car-seat, traveling in city cabs.                

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

At Camp Galileo

Nikhil  came back from summer camp yesterday with his face painted yellow and black. Said he has turned a cheetha and  growled at me . I acted suitably scared,  when Nikhil,  4 plus, with brother Sidharth, 6 plus, and their friend Suraj,  raided my room . They timed the attack to the afternoon hour when I have this post-lunch snooze.  Nikhil let it be known his coach at the camp was in on this engagement. She helped him put on the war-paint on Nikhil's face.  
Anyway, Nikhil and Sidharth left for the camp this morning wearing  a crazy cap. Wednesday is ‘Crazy Hat and Hair Day’ at Camp Galileo.  Yesterday  was the day for  ‘Team Color Spirit’.  The schoolboy campers dressed  up for the occasion in respective team colour.  Nikhil’s team color is blue. The ‘cheetha’ that attacked  me yesterday was dressed in blue.  Red, green, yellow and black are among other team colors. The campers  are split agewise under  three categories – Nebulas, Stars and Supernovas.  Nikhil , as Nebula, wore blue. Elder brother  Sidharth wore black. Campers wearing black are Stars. So are those in yellow. orange and purple.  Supernovas wore red, silver or neon green on Team Color Day, Tuesday .
Camp Galileo, says its website,  is a  summer day camp designed  for pre-K to  5th graders in San Francisco Bay Area. Idea is to encourage kids to brainstorm, create and think like innovators through the Galileo Innovation Approach. Each week-long summer camp session centers around an imaginative story or theme, which inspires art, science and outdoor projects for campers to explore . This week’s  camp  started, with Monday devoted to  the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco. Student campers learned about the Golden Gate’s history , the bridge's construction; and, about  its the main features.
 As Sidharth put it, In the beginning, when there was no bridge, you had to  either swim across the  San Francisco Bay to reach Marin County, or  take a boat that took a long long time. Besides, there were sharks out there . But then when an engineer  named Strauss  first suggested  a bridge across the bay,  everyone laughed at the idea.
The theme next week  is  ‘Olympic Games’. Besides class-room sessions , they have  art and  creativity hours and much outdoor activities. “Don’t forget to apply sunscreen  (to children) and to send water and lunchtime beverage with them,” says  the guide sheet to parents.  No wonder  chilldren get drawn to Camp Galileo. Nikhil and Sidharth wouldn’t   miss the camp for anything. The have signed on for two weeks of it.
The only snag is the cost -  it’s  $350 per week

Monday, July 16, 2012

Inside a hurricane simulator

They watched  a  three-minute video clip of a recent storm, shot and uploaded by my blogger friend in Ohio.  A few days  later  we were at the Pleasanton Mall, where  Sidharth and Nikhil got  a ‘feel’ of it   in a ‘hurricane simulator’.  The simulator is fitted in a kiosk, of the size of a phone booth. Step inside, slip in a coin, and you are put through a ‘hurricane ‘ for a couple of minutes. If you want more of it, you need to put in some more coins.  Those who have turned  such ‘hurricane experience’ into a business model have placed simulators in over 300 malls and games arcades. 

I wonder what my blogger friend who has been through the disaster in Ohio thinks about  making a plaything  of  'hurrican experience'. As someone put it in a blogpost, ‘ I’m not sure if it’s just the cynic in me, but I find this somewhat disturbing and I can only imagine that if I had experienced a hurricane first-hand I might find this simulator booth somewhat offensive’.    

Friday, July 13, 2012

Painters at work

My California-based grandsons – Sidharth, 6 plus, and Nikhil, 4 - took me to Color Me Mine, a shop where you colour your own toys. Take a toy off the shelf, paint it the way you please (they give the paints and brush at the shop), and then have them bake and glaze your painted toy to give the finish and shine of a factory-made item. The idea is to let children customise their toys , with the colours they fancy. Nikhil and Sidharth who have done their colouring of toys will have their masterpiece fired in a kiln, glazed, and delivered within a week.
Nikhil picked out for colouring a T-Rex dinasaur, to scare his grandpa . Elder brother opted for a bear with wings, for hit-and-fly attacks on their common target – grandpa. The color-me-mine concept , besides being fun, promotes colour sense and creativity, and helps learning process among children. They get so focused on hands-on paintwork that their mommy could leave Nikhil and Sidharth at Color Me Mine for an hour so so that she could do her shopping elsewhere at Pleasanton Mall.
It is an idea that play schools and daycare centre at residential complexes can adopt. At our Chennai apartments complex – Mantri Synergy – with 750 flats there are a number young parents with young children who would welcome a facility that offers hands-on painting opportunity such as the ColorMe Mine initiative. Banks can adopt the business model to attract deposits, notably, through piggybank accounts. Canara Bank used to hand out a pig-shaped cash pots in which children collected small changes. The color-me-mine concept can tried out as a marketing device . Use of earthern toys for piggybanks by banks would boost income of potters and rural artisans, besides engaging children in hands-on design and painting of their toys.

Cross-posted from My Take by GVK

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bug talk with grandkids

 We were talking about a bug I found  in the living room.  A  ‘red alert’ I sounded , on discovery of beetle-like bug crawling on floor, brought Sidharth and Nikhil scurrying in from their play-room to size up the situation. Snag was none of us had it in us to confront   the  alien creature. Grandma, the only trained bug-killer   in  our household was upstairs taking a bath. 
My efforts to trap the bug in a ‘Whole Foods’ shopping bag  didn’t work;  what’s worse, the runaway bug  sprinted across the floor to take cover under the sofa, where, presumably,  it  was still staying,  till the next morning  when we reviewed the bug-in-living-room situation at breakfast table.
 Reviewing the prospects of tracking it down, Nikhil held  the bug could still be hiding under sofa, camouflaged in the carpet. Was surprised   at his use of the word ‘camouflaged’.  i hadn't heard  a four-year old using the word.  Asked if he knew what it meant, and where from he picked it up  Nikhil mentioned his school, and went on to  explain what the word meant. But I couldn’t catch what he Said  -  my grandsons often flux me with their  accent . Translating   Nikhil’s language for me elder brother Sidharth, 6 plus, said  ‘camouflage   means blending in’.
Did they teach such words at   their  Montessori ? Sidharth said they got it from  Wild Kratts, a TV serial       

Monday, July 9, 2012

It’s not cricket, Mr Nash

I have a grouse against Steve Nash. He put Sidharth and Nikhil in a fix, by switching team – from Phoenix Sun to L A Lakers.  Nash is  the  basketballer they like the most.  And the Suns (Phoenix)has been their favourite team . Phoenix is their town – Sidharth’s and Nikhil’s. Their mommy was born and brought up there ; dad went to college in the town. Their Ajji and Jag-thatha  live in Phoenix.
There was no issue with their team loyalty till Steve Nash was playing for the Sun. Now that he has moved  to  theLos Angeles Lakers , Sidharth is having to do a re-think. ‘I would support them equally, I guess’, he said when I asked him. Which is okay when the two teams are playing others. What. If the Sun confront Lakers ?