Just A Minute

There was a wonderful game that I played growing up while in school and college called Just A Minute. In fact, it was so popular in that part of the world that we had inter-school and inter-college competitions. The rules of the game are very simple – you have to speak on an impromptu topic for one minute without hesitation, repetition, or deviation while maintaining grammatically correct English. One of the other competitors can challenge you and take the podium from you if you trip up. Besides the obvious entertainment that the game provides, it is an excellent way for kids to develop the skills of public speaking, story telling, collecting and sequencing ideas, and expanding their knowledge and vocabulary.

The game has been a very popular BBC Radio show for decades.

Can’t You Sit Still?

Many years ago, in my first year as team manager of a team of young elementary kids for Destination Imagination, I had a third grade girl on my team. This girl could never sit still. She was always on her feet moving around. Not knowing better then, I would try to get her to sit still during the discussions so that she would not distract the other kids. How many of you have been in a similar situation yourself? Or have had your child’s teacher or someone tell you, “I think your child has a hard time focussing”. My contention is that in most cases, they and us fail to realize that there are a vast majority of children who need to move to think! It just seems so counter-intuitive that most adults just dismiss it as a wayward child who will never accomplish anything much.

Ken Robinson has a wonderful story about this in his TED Talk – School kills creativity – about a little girl who got into trouble at school because she could not sit still. My story about the third grade girl on my team does not have as impactful an ending as his, for I lost touch with her family . Suffice it is to say that in the team, she was the most creative and brilliant performer and on stage during the competition, she opened my eyes. The team was to perform the chicken dance as the final piece. They had rehearsed it to music that was to be played through a boom box that they inadvertently forgot to plug into the power cord. The rules of this competition state no adult assistance is permitted, which meant that the kids had to set the stage themselves. This is a timed performance, and when the music did not play as planned, the kids froze. As the agonizing seconds went by, and the adults in the audience wringed their hands, this girl snapped the team out of their helpless stupor, began moving her hands and feet while humming the tune, and led the team in the most creative rendition of the chicken dance you will be privileged to see.

Many years later, I had an almost similar experience with my younger son, who just cannot sit still. He is playing music, tapping his feet, and staring into space while I try to explain to him a lengthy homework concept. It is then that I started to formally research different learning styles, and what I read reinforced what I had experienced over the years. I am glad I did, because the harm that we can cause to our children by trying to pigeon hole them into one learning style bucket is far more than any of us take the time to realize.

There are many articles on different learning styles. Here is one I found recently. I would urge you to spend the time to read it and apply it, not for your sake, but for the sake of our children. The next time someone tells you that your child cannot sit still and has a “learning” problem, ask them, “Have you considered that maybe his learning style is different than yours”?


Fall is the season

when the wet leaves

that were once handing in the dark dreary sky,

drift to the ground.

The rain pounds on the roof

Like birds falling out of the sky.

Kids stomping in puddles

With rain boots as yellow as the sun.

When Halloween comes

The children are yelling in there spookiest voices.

Animals collecting as much food for the harsh winter.

That is the season of FALL.

Written by second grader, Rohan Vaidya

Fall Colors near Leavenworth, WA

Off The Grid

People often ask what sparked my interest in the great outdoors and why I like to disappear off the grid.

I grew up in Bombay (now Mumbai), India’s commercial capital and a sprawling metropolitan of unimaginable proportions. When I was 18, I joined a group of friends on a hike. It was the peak of the Indian summer (105-110 degrees ). We were young, restless, and foolish. Our destination was a remote mountain area, about 14 hours away along unmarked trails and rugged terrain deep in the hills of western India. We found a local villager who had heard about the place and offered to take us there.

There are three things I remember of that day – the awe inspiring beauty of the great outdoors, the sheer mental determination we had to draw upon to reach our destination, and above all the unassuming simplicity of the villagers we met along the way including our guide, who opened their simple thatched huts to us with food and lodging and expected nothing in return.

More than two decades later, I try and teach these same values to my kids. On one of our recent backpacking trips in summer, my ten year old son jumped into a cold mountain stream, pointed to an organized chaos of rocks, twigs, branches and mud, and explained to me how beavers build dams. He did it with words, gestures and expressions that I had no idea he knew and that no class room teacher would ever have the privilege of witnessing.

In the city, you see from heaven to heaven what man has made. In the country, you see from heaven to heaven what creation has made, and life and it’s values the way they were meant to be.

That is why I periodically disappear off the grid.

Shirish Vaidya