My Life in Covid Times continued…

I got a phone call a few weeks ago, asking if I would be willing to participate in a S.T.E.A.M expo.  I found this thrilling from several perspectives.  First, it was a chance to perform my show or a variation of it, on an online platform.  As my live show format has been stomped on like a small daisy in a large green field, by the stampede of a bazillion COVID 19 viral bugs, I was excited to be valued for anything in my skill set.

Then, the fact that an organization would appreciate in the world of STEM, that the A for Arts has a level of value.  Finally, that this level of value would see its way down to the youngest members of society, where Arts and Science/Engineering could work in conjunction with one another, as opposed to being seen as a world where you either pursued the Arts & Humanities or you pursued Science, Engineering and Math.

I cannot begin to tell you, Reader, the number of conversations and arguments that I have partaken in, where highly intelligent people on the Math and Science side of the equation, have argued that art plays no role in the Math and Science world. For those who see that value of ART in STEAM, I applaud you.  For those who cannot see the conjoining of the two, I am happy to discuss this point further.

Happily, the 7th Annual Students Think S.T.E.A.M Expo think the A for ART is important.  They were incredibly supportive of my interactive storytelling style and content, telling me over and over again that I was a very valuable part of their STEAM expo.  For I will admit, I was a bit doubtful that anyone would show up at my portal when it came time for me to present.

I prepared a show that I have come to love, called “Hello Noodle! Have You Seen My Poodle?”  It’s a story about a kid who likes to make things with noodles.  In the process of having so much fun making shapes and doodles with noodles, our protagonist loses their poodle.  The kids and I go on an adventure to find the poodle.

I think that on the day of the STEAM expo, I had a few lucky breaks on my side.  I was the first listed “speaker”, as I appealed to the youngsters in attendance.  As I was the first listed speaker, the moderator of the whole conference introduced me first.  When I entered the portal, where I was hoping to get between ten to twelve kids, there were a whopping eighty children lined up ready to “learn” all about the noodle and the doodle and my poodle!  

And then…

The technology came crashing down.  I couldn’t connect to my YouTube where I had a lovely video of the story “Hello Noodle! Have You Seen My Poodle?” posted.  And I had eighty kids hanging on every word of Ms. Bits N’ Bobs and Her Magical Cloak.  

Whilst this might have been my first rodeo with a group of eighty kids on an online portal, this was definitely NOT my first rodeo with a group of eighty kids hungry to expand their imaginations.

So I jumped back to my strength, which is interacting and performing for kids.  We danced and galloped our way on magical unicorns to the Land of Imagination.  The kids from all over the country galloped together in a blessing of unicorns (yes, a group of unicorns is called a blessing! Who knew?!) We met Dragons and Magical Butterflies on our journey.  We flew past the moon, which we had to taste to see whether, indeed, it was made of cheese (we definitely had some disagreement on whether the moon was made of cheese and for those who believed in the cheese, what kind of cheese; cheddar was popular).  Then, of course, we had to lasso some falling stars so that we could wish upon them later in the show.

I told the story of the Noodle and The Poodle as best as I could remember it (even though I wrote it), and then it was time to take our pencils, our crayons, our creativity and our imaginations and begin to doodle so we could make or find our own poodles.

To my immense happiness and relief, eighty kids began to doodle, humming, focusing and laughing together as they shared their creations on the screen with me and each other. We focused on some primary shapes, circles, squares, rectangles and triangles and they made everything from pumpkins and poodles, dinosaurs and dolphins, from rectangular buses where we all got to pretend for a moment that we could go back to school in a time that was not COVID to triangular mountains, where we were free in nature and away from computers and breathing fresh air and dancing in the tall grass.

Shapes from the STEAM expo!

All too soon, our time together was coming to an end.  I had gone way over my allotted schedule.  It was time to log off from the expo.  Slowly, but surely, the screens began to empty.  For those of you not familiar with Zoom or in this case a company called Hop In, you have the option of being present in an online portal, whilst muting yourself for sound and for blanking yourself out for video.  I was slowly pulling away from the portal, when I heard one of the kids, a little girl about four or five, crying to her big sister 

“Where did Ms. Bits N’ Bobs go? Where did she go?” 

Her seven year old sister, consoled her, saying “It was time for the event to end, we can go somewhere else in the expo.”

“Noooooooooo!” Wailed little sister, “I have to show her my picture.  I’ve been working on it sooooooooo hard!”

“Well, she’s gone.” Replied the older sister.

Meanwhile, I’m on the other side of the portal, saying out loud. “No, I’m still here, I’m coming back!”  Of course, no one can hear me, but my cat, who is looking quite alarmed at me yelling at a computer.

And… I can’t get back in.  The tech issue is back.

The little girl is crying.  I’m yelling, “I’m coming”.  I keep refreshing the page.  The cat just wants to be fed.  The older sister is starting to look annoyed.  

But, I can participate in the Chat area of the portal.  

“I’m here.  I can hear you!” I write frantically.

The older sister says jubilantly “She’s still here. Ms. Bits N’ Bobs is still here! She’s coming back!”

And I am determined to get back in.  Even my cat is looking at me with her big blue Siamese eyes encouraging me.

I’m on the screen.  The girls scream with the thrill of bringing me back!  And the drawing is pushed to the front of their screen.  It’s a drawing of Ms. Bits N’ Bobs in detail.  The big hat, with the colorful squares and triangles is perfect.  Ms. Bits N’ Bobs has a huge half moon smile of her big round face.  I was definitely smiling ear to ear at this point. The magical cloak was swirling in a big, delightful triangle and there were toys and bits n’ bobs drawn all over it.

We were all smiling, we were all happy, even the cat.  It was a good day on the internet in the crazy time of COVID.  And I determined I would do more of these shows.

And this is where you can find me in a new online classroom called Outschool, where you can visit from just about anywhere on earth. If you are visiting from the moon, you may have to wish upon a lucky star to find me. I hope to see you and your kids soon!

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