Robots Rock!

by Vicky on May 9, 2010

Space robots were the theme at this week’s Page Presents class.  I taught the kids the American Sign Language sign for “robot” (robotic arm movements), and then we played Robot Commander (a robotic version of Simon Says).

Matt brought a metronome for his Mr. Matt’s Minute of rhythm instruction, and as he gradually increased the tempo the kids had a blast speeding up their robot moves to stay with the beat.

Then, with the help of Page the Bookworm and a toy robot, I told the story of Space Robot @ the Library, which was based on the puppet play “Take Me To Your Library” by Denise Anton Wright (from One-Person Puppet Plays). (Overheard from the audience as the puppet play was about to begin: Little Boy: “Where’s the Worm?” Mother: “We’ll just have to wait and see if he shows up.”)

The Space Robot is making soft beeping noises, and, in a soliloquy, confides to the audience that he is afraid and feels very anxious about meeting his first Earthling.  He exits, and then we see Page the Bookworm, on his way to the library.  Page hears the beeping sound, wonders what it is, asks the audience if they can hear it.  Naturally they assert that it’s coming from a space robot.

Page can’t believe this, but eventually admits to the audience that they were right, after he has a close encounter with the space robot.  Page tells the robot that he is on his way to the library to return his books and to check out some more to take home and read.  The robot does not understand the words, “library,” “book,” and “read.”  Page gets his library books and demonstrates.  The space robot is excited and wants to take this technology back to his planet.

Page explains that the books belong to the library and are shared by everyone, so he can’t give them to the space robot.  However, he points out that there are digital versions of the books that he will download into the robot’s memory.  The space robot happily returns to his planet, and Page waves goodbye and rushes on to the library to tell everyone about his adventure.

After the story, the kids made robot bodi-puppets (I got this idea from Storytelling with Puppets, by Connie Champlin).  This time I remembered to tell the parents to be sure to measure the robot body parts against their child and make any necessary adjustments before stapling it together!

This one belonged to a very short kid!

I had been reading about Dave Eggers’ TED wish that people would engage creatively with their local public schools, and about how his fabulous 826 Valencia tutoring center inspired others around the world to open.  Since the original location was zoned for retail, they had to open a store at the tutoring center, and so they created The Pirate Supply Store to serve the working buccaneer.  This model proved to be so successful that all the subsequent 826 tutoring centers have featured a store, including the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. in New York, the Boring Store (surreptitiously supplying secret agents) in Chicago, the Time Travel Mart in Los Angeles, the Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute (in Boston), and the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co. in Seattle.

The 826Michigan center in Ann Arbor features the Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair shop.  I thought the kids would appreciate the seal of approval that a manufacturer’s label would provide for their robots.

I also discovered a lot of old AOL cds in a cupboard, which would be a great feature for robots of the digital age, and I gathered together assorted stickers and labels, as well as a box of various foam shapes.  We used leftover insulation from a roofing project for the arms and legs, and I created little wheels by covering sections of wrapping paper tubes with heavy-duty aluminum foil.  And yes! the large letters and numbers came from my 2009 Stendig calendar.

The kids made amazing robot bodi-puppets.  A parent commented, “I think this is not just for kids, because we parents love robots too!”

Afterwards, we all put on our robots and danced robotically to the techno sounds of Daft Punk’s Robot Rocks.  Andrew, our über-cool rock band drummer page, said, “I walked into the library and I thought, whoa, I hear techno-rock….Daft Punk…Robot Rocks!  Chill.”

I was pleased to notice afterwards that all of the robot books I had on display before the program had been checked out…or else stolen by a space robot!

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