Sunday 30 June 2019

Who Am I? Twenty facts about me!

Between different posts on our social media sites recently and conversations that I've had with my colleagues, people who know me have realised that I have done a lot in my life thus far. I've never been one to shout from the roof tops my achievements so when people find out more about me, they can be genuinely shocked. Just recently I've been on the receiving end of a lot of questions about things that I have done or have experienced, so I thought that it was about time to devote a post to just me. To answer questions that people have asked, so hold on tight.

1. I was raised on National Parks in the Northern Territory. My father was a Parks and Wildlife Ranger so we lived on Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park and then Berry Springs National Park. My father was then the head ranger in charge of an area that spanned from Fogg Dam, which is just outside of Darwin, to the edge of Kakadu National Park. This was a huge area so we spent a lot of time camping, exploring the bush, fishing and travelling around this area. While living at Nitimuk we spent some time with the Jawoyn people who are the traditional owners and custodians of the land, we had a pet Emu who thought she was human and would gate crash, literally, birthday parties at our ranger house. I lost count of the number of times that us ranger kids would take the ride from school back out to Nitmiluk on the back of the Ranger Utility so that Mrs Brolly, the resident Brolga, could sit in the cabin of the utility so that she wouldn't fly back into Katherine to terrorize the hospital or old folks home patients! We had wallabies as pets. While living at Berry Springs National Park, us ranger kids used to watch on as the rangers would pull BIG crocodiles from the traps that were put in below swimming spots. Watching the first crocodile be pulled out was enough to not want to go swimming in the springs! Ah good times!

2. I am petrified of big flying cockroaches to the point that I will freeze if I spot one. I always have been and probably always will be. My theory on why is because of the all times we used to go camping when I was a child and in the middle of the night, these horrid creatures would fly around and land on whatever they could find. Including sleeping people. Aaagh! They just creep me out! I also have a fear of llamas on account of being spat on by one many years ago. I like llamas but from a distance away.

3. Whilst at primary school, I began learning to play the Alto Saxophone. I initially wanted to play the clarinet but my music teacher convinced me that the Saxophone was a much better, and louder, instrument!! I'm also double jointed and my thumbs just didn't want to play the game when I first started learning to play a musical instrument! Playing a musical instrument was great for my confidence. It was great for my anxiety and social awkwardness as I could escape into my music. I was in the Darwin Youth Jazz Big Band which toured East Timor in Indonesia. As part of the Jazz Band, we got to jam with the great Australian trumpeter Jazz extraordinaire, James Morrison at one of the Darwin Jazz Festivals. I was also in the Combined Schools Concert Band - we played at many combined school concerts and performances and in the 1992 Pacific School Games Opening Ceremony. Through playing the Saxophone, I taught myself how to play the piano and the drums. 

4. I was in the Girl Guides movement as a Lone Ranger Brownie - think distance education - as we lived too far from a Brownie Troupe. I then moved up into the Girl Guides. As a Guide I achieved my BP award which is the highest level badge that a Girl Guide can achieve. But secretly, I always wanted to be in the Cubs or Scouts as they had more fun. But alas, this was before girls were accepted into the Scouts. Once I had become too old to be in the Girl Guides, I became a Cub Scout Instructor.

5. In year 8 I was accepted into the Junior Police Rangers Program in the Northern Territory. This was a program that was established by the Northern Territory Police Service to develop leadership skills in young people. I started in the program in year 9 and graduated in year 11. It was the most amazing three years of not only learning leadership skills but we did a HUGE range of other activities. Abseiling, bush survival skills, radio skills, public speaking, first aid courses every twelve months, navigating and orienteering and many, many more activities. 

6. When I was in year 10, I was accepted into a student exchange program with Indonesia. I spent the first six months of 1990 living on a very small island, Ternate, just over the equator in Indonesia with an Indonesian family. A family that I still call family even today. For six months I lived their way of life, I spoke Bahasa Indonesia every day. Most of time anyway, sometimes it was English when my two sisters and friends wanted to practice their English language skills, sometimes it was Bahasa Tidore or Bahasa Ternate when I was taught how to swear, shhh, in the local dialect! I went to school as well as doing school work from back home. I experienced life as anyone would who lived on Ternate. I even experienced a volcano erupting on the island. Oh. My. Goodness. I had never been that scared before!! 

7. I had my heart set on becoming a marine biologist to the point that I worked all my senior high school subjects and university units into working towards my goal of gaining a Bachelor of Marine Science. In year 11, I did a weeks work experience with the Marine Biology section of our local Natural History Museum and loved it. The head scientist told me at the end of the week, "any time you want to come back and volunteer, you are more than welcome." So I spent every school holidays and University break back at the Museum, volunteering!

8. My heart was set on becoming a marine biologist until I fell into the role as an Education Officer with the CSIRO Science Education Centre in the Northern Territory while studying science at University. It was in this role that I realised that my calling was not as a marine biologist but in working with children. In this role I traveled throughout the Northern Territory, the Kimberley Region in Western Australia and Queensland conducting hands on science sessions for school students from Prep (4 and 5 year olds) right through to Year 12 students as well as running in service sessions for teachers and university students. It was my dream job - I was developing hands on science sessions based on the school curriculum and then going out into schools and passing on my love of science.

9. My year 11 physics teacher had the audacity to tell me in class in front of all the other students that I wouldn't achieve anything in science because I was a girl. So I set out to prove him wrong. One of the highlights when working for the CSIRO Science Education Centre was seeing the look on his face when I went into his science class to teach a forensics science unit! Moral of this story - don't ever tell me that I can't do something because I will set out to prove you wrong!

10. While working for the CSIRO I was awarded a Queens Trust for Young Australians Award to travel around Australia viewing education programs in zoos, museums, botanic gardens, science centres and other places that ran education programs for school students. The Queens Trust Awards were established during Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee. This was a month long tour and it was amazing. It opened my eyes as to what was available to teachers and what other opportunities were available as an education officer. It also gave me loads of ideas to adapt into programs that I could conduct at our centre in the NT. Lots of fun!

11. Due to my work in the science field I was a finalist in the Young Australian of the Year awards on three occasions. This was an honour in itself to have my work recognised as making an impact in the field of science. I may not have won but being a finalist was enough.

12. While living in Darwin I gained my SCUBA diving certificates by diving in Darwin Harbour. Probably not the best place to learn to SCUBA dive - think zero visibility in the water, crocodiles, sharks and various jellyfish all of which were very capable of maiming and potentially killing people, and huge tides that sent you either out into the Timor sea or down into the mangroves. But the history hidden in Darwin Harbour is amazing - World War Two Wrecks, many of which you can still see the massive features on the shipwrecks. And if you can handle diving in Darwin Harbour with zero visibility, you can dive anywhere else!

13. I was also introduced to the sport of Rock Climbing while living in Darwin. The indoor gym was an old World War II oil tank and many a night and weekend would be spent scaling the walls, inside and outside, and setting new routes! And if we weren't at the indoor gym, we were somewhere in the Top End climbing outdoors. Yep, I used to be a little bit of a thrill seeker!!

14. I was given the honour of running with the Olympic flame in the lead up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics. This was a huge buzz. I ran 400 metres down one of the main roads in Darwin and I will never forget the feeling. O loves looking at my Olympic Torch, especially in the lead up to an Olympic Games. O gets a buzz that the Olympic flame that she can see during the Torch relay or burning bright over the Olympic stadium on TV, once was carried by her Mum on the Olympic torch that she's holding in her hot little hands.

15. I did a stint as a snare drummer in a RSL Pipes and Drums unit! The band needed a few more drummers, so I put my hand up!

16. I have worked in the education and early childhood industry for a little over 20 years (jeez, makes me sound old!) I've worked as a tutor, as an Education Officer, I've developed and conducted hands on educational programs, I've worked with at risk youth and I've worked, and am still working in, the early childhood industry.

17. I was a Police Officer for seven years in Central Queensland. When I started at the North Queensland Police Academy I was the shortest recruit out of both intake squads. I can vividly recall the very first time that I attempted the obstacle course - I ran towards a wooden wall and thought that there was no way that I was going to make it over the wall by myself. The wall was taller than my height. The first time, one of my fellow recruits gave me a leg up over the wall - we were running the obstacle course as a group! The second time through, I knew that I had to get over the wall myself. And I did. I ran hell bent for leather at the wall, used both feet to push up off of the ground and smashed my lower arms into the top of the wall as leverage to push over the wall. The other recruits and trainers used to piddle themselves laughing as all they could see from the other side of the wall was a hat bobbing up and down and then they'd see me appear! I graduated from the Police Academy as joint Dux of the intake - the first time that two women had been joint Dux! Working as a Police Officer made me physically and mentally stronger and I have formed friendships with my then colleagues that will last a life time. It was an experience that I'll never forget. It had it's moments and I saw things that I can't unsee but it was great life experience. And I resigned purely because my personal priorities had changed with the arrival of O and Daddy superhero was offered a promotion to Western Australia.

18. I was involved in motorcycle racing as a marshall, scrutineer and time keeper for road racing, motocross and speedway in North Queensland but had to resign from my position when I started as a recruit with the Queensland Police Service. Not because the QPS wanted me to resign, but because the local organization did not want a police officer in their ranks! Go figure!

19. I have lived in three states and territories in Australia and have visited every other state and Territory, including Norfolk Island, except for Tasmania. One day I will get there!

20. I LOVE Lilo and Stitch. I was asked a few weeks ago what my favourite movie was and I honestly couldn't answer until the question was rephrased to "what movie could you watch over and over and never get tired of?" Easy! Lilo and Stitch! A few years ago one of my friends, thank you Alisha, went to Disneyland in the USA and brought me a little Stitch figurine. Best. Present. Ever!

So that's me in a nutshell!

Sunday 16 June 2019

Stop Motion Animation #Stikbots

**** Please note that we do not receive commissions of any description for this review. 
It is simply a product that we have found useful. ****

I have always loved watching stop motion animations, some of my all time favourite stop motion movies and shows are the Wallace and Grommet series, the Shaun the Sheep series, Kubo and the Two Strings, The Boxtrolls, The Pirates and Chicken Run. My brother really likes watching Pingu too. But while watching them, I have always been very curious about how they make them.

I really like watching the extras on DVD's because I can learn new and interesting facts about the movie that I just watched and on some of the stop motion movies, they have how the animations were made. Just from watching these, it looks really difficult and very time consuming.

Here's some information about Stop Motion Animation, just in case you're not sure what it means.

Stop Motion Animation is a technique that film makers can use to bring static objects to life - the film makers can basically make a character look like it is alive, even though it might be made of plastic or plasticine. Film makers do this by taking a series of still photos of the characters in the film. In each photo frame, the character has to move a tiny little bit so that when the photos are played in sequence from start to finish, it looks like the character is moving. My brother said that the sequence of photos are a bit like a flip book. Just in stop motion animation, the sequence of photos are played at a super fast speed.

When film makers are making a stop motion animation, they will usually use clay figures, puppets,plasticine, miniature figures with movable joints and sometimes even paper or fabric. The reason that these are commonly used is because all of these art mediums can be easily handled and re-positioned in small increments.

When I did some research on Stop Motion Animation, I found out that Stop Motion Animation was developed in the late 1800's. That's a very long time ago. The very first movie that used Stop Motion techniques was a movie called The Humpty Dumpty Circus. It was made in 1897 by J Stuart Blackton and Albert E Smith and was about a toy circus of acrobats and animals that comes to life. The two film makers used their daughters toys and dolls as the props. I also found out that this movie has been lost - there's only one screen shot that can be found - and that the reason the movie is lost is because the movie is really, really old and film makers back then probably didn't know how to save their creations. It's not like they had a phone or computer or USB to save it on.

A few weeks ago, my Mummy surprised my little brother and me with two Stikbot people figures and a Stikbot Dinosaur. My best friend, G, had come over for a play, and we were all a bit bored because it was too wet to go outside to play.

Stikbots are really cool because they are pose-able robot looking figures that have suction cups on their hands and feet. I think the dinosaur Stikbot is meant to be a T-Rex because it has two little arms and two big feet like a T-Rex. It has suction cups on it's big feet.

The suction cups mean that the Stikbots can literally stick to any surface, it's really cool. And because the Stikbots head, arms and legs are all joined to their body with tight stretchy elastic, it means you can change how the Stikbots stand and move around.

The other really cool thing about Stikbots is that they can be used to make Stop Motion Animation and there is an app that can be downloaded onto phones or tablets.

Mummy showed G, L and me how to move the Stikbots really slowly and then showed us how to use the app.

The app is called Stikbot Studio and Mummy downloaded it from the Google Play Store. It's a free app, so that is good too. Daddy had a look on his phone because it is an Apple phone and you can get the app in the Apple store too and it is free as well. Once Mummy had shown us how to use the app, G, L and me made some stop motion animations. The one just under this is the first one we made. We set up an animation studio in our garage and wouldn't let Mummy and Daddy in until we had finished!

Did you like that one? It was lots of fun to make.

I'm going to try to explain how to use the app.

1. When you open the app on your phone, Mummy has the app on her phone and her tablet but the lighting is better on her phone, the screen you should first see looks like this. Can you see the four icons along the bottom? There is Create Movie, Capture Photo, Gallery and Help. When we first opened the app, we had a little play to see what was on it.

2. The Help icon is really cool and useful because there are lots of video tutorials on how to use the Stikbots and how to make animations. We watched the first three tutorials before we made our first Stop Motion Animation.

One of the tutorials explains that to make a Stop Motion Animation that is one second long, you need to take at least 10 different photo frames. Can you imagine how many photo frames they need to take to make a movie that is an hour long? Now I know why Stop Motion Movies look so time consuming and complicated to make.

3. When you go into either the Create Movie or Capture Photo icons they both look basically the same. The only difference is that in the Capture Photo icon you can only take one photo at a time. 

In the Create Movie icon, that's where you capture lots of photos in a sequence. Each time you press the red camera button, the app captures a photo frame. What's really cool is that once the photo is captured, a faint photo that you just took stays on the screen so that you know where you moved the Stikbot to.

Once you start capturing frames for your Stop Motion Movie an arrow comes up in the top right hand corner of the screen. Once you have finished your movie, you press the arrow in the top right hand corner and it saves the movie.

4. When you go into the next screen, this is where you can edit your movie creation. You can add a soundtrack to your movie or you can add your own sounds. You can also play your movie to see what it looks like.

If you go into the icon on the top right that looks like a flower, you can change how many frames per second - fps - that your movie will play at. So you can make it go super slow mo or really, really fast. But remember to have a good Stop Motion Animation you need to have at least 10 frames per second.

After my friend G went home, I made some Stop Motion Animations with our Lego minifigs! These were fun to make but much harder to move the minifigs because they are much smaller than the Stikbots.

Now this is where it gets really exciting. Last week we had to go to Kmart and while we were looking in the toys because my little brother likes to look at the toys, I found some more Stikbots. I was really excited to find a Green Screen Stikbot Studio kit. Mummy brought it for me and L to use because we have been making lots of Stop Motion Animations.

The Green Screen Stikbot Studio has both a green screen and a blue screen (it's just a big cardboard box with a green side and a blue side, two smaller cardboard boxes with green sides and blue sides on them, two Stikbots and what looks like an art easel that can hold your phone while you're creating Stop Motion Animations. The easel is really clever because it will keep your phone in the same position while you create your Stop Motion Animation.

Did you know that a green screen, or sometimes a blue screen, is used when filming movies and not just stop motion movies, so that a different background can be added to the final movie. The actors and actresses would film their movie screens on a green screen set and then the movie editors would add the background in later. It's sometimes known as Chroma Key Compositing. Green and Blue are the two colours most different from our skin so it makes it easier for the movie editors to change the screen background without cutting off the actors and actresses body parts!!

There are a lot of movies that I have watched that have used green screen sets when they have been making the movie - Mary Poppins Returns used a blue screen in some of their sets, all of The Avengers movies, Alice in Wonderland, Captain America, Iron Man, Transformers, Thor Ragnarok, The Power Rangers Movie and heaps more.

When we went to use the green screen with our Stikbots, we couldn't work out how to use it because the green screen on the app wasn't working. We worked out that we had to turn the green screen feature of the app on. We found this out by pressing the different icons on the screen because there aren't any instructions in the kit! I think that whoever makes this kit, needs to put instructions in the Green Screen Kit on how to turn the feature on in the app.

When you first go into either the Create Movie or Capture Photo icons there is a flower icon on the bottom left. When you press that icon, four more icons open up. To activate the green screen feature you need to press the small green rectangle.

When the next screen opens up, it will probably look like the image underneath this. See how the tabs are grey? You need to slide the on tab across so that the screen looks like the next image.

When the tabs are coloured you can change the background from Green screen to Blue screen. You can also change the Colour roll Backdrop.

In Colour roll Backdrop you can choose from the Stikbot Library or you can choose a picture that is on your phone. We tried to use a backdrop from Mummy's phone, but it didn't turn out properly. I would recommend using a backdrop from the Stikbot Library as there are quite a few to choose from and the backdrops are really good.

This is what the picture will look like when the green screen is on. Can you see the Stikbot at the back of this picture? See how it looks like it has a ghost head? That's because it's head is green so it blends into the green screen. You have to make sure that if you are using the green screen, you don't use characters that are green. And if you use the blue screen, the characters can't be blue.

I made a few green screen Stop Motion animations and Mummy helped me to make some props to use. We made fire flames, some cardboard logs for a fire and some tents.

Now I wanted to show you some of my green screen Stop Motion Animations that I have made. I prefer to use the Stikbots because they are easier to move around and Mummy helped me with the Lego Minifigs.

I would really recommend the Stikbot sets to anyone who is interested in learning how to make Stop Motion Animations. They are really easy to use and lots of fun. It looks like there are other sets that you can buy like a set that has a Dino theme with lots of different accessories for the Stikbots and Stikbot Action Packs that have helmets, plastic hair and musical instruments for the Stikbots in it. I really would like to get a few more sets but we couldn't find them. Playing with the Stikbots, the green screen and the app has helped me to learn a lot about making Stop Motion Animations.

Now my Mummy wants to add something. Thank you for reading my review on Stop Motion Animation and the Stikbots.

From O 😍💕😻😸

Stop Motion Animation is a topic that O has always been interested in so it was wonderful to find a product that she could use to create her own animations. We found them in the toy section of Kmart but I would imagine that you should be able to find them in other department stores and toy shops.

While all of the Stop Motion Animation is done during screen time, we figured that at least O and L having been doing something constructive! O and L have also been doing a little unschooling when making their animations as they've had to work out how best to move the characters so that the movement looks semi natural on screen, which colours work best on the green screen and many other aspects of Stop Motion Animation. Oh and if your children do ask to use your device to create some Stop Motion Animation, be prepared that your devices battery may go very flat. The app is brilliant but it does chew up battery power!

22/8/19 Edited 

We've since found two more Stop Motion Apps that O also loves to use.

Stop Motion Studio is a free App available in Google Play which O finds much easier to use. We also found an App called Green Screen Video (also available for free on Google Play) and as the name suggests it can be used to create live green screen videos.

Tuesday 11 June 2019

Let's Talk About ..... Bullying

We need to have a yarn. About Bullying.

This is something that we have always had to deal with in superhero headquarters. O has always been subjected to bullying from the moment she started school at the age of almost four years old. During her first two years of school, there was one child who was relentless in seeking out O at school and physically backing her into a corner to verbally lash out at her. It got to the point that O would stop wanting to use the toilets at school because this other child would chase her into the toilets whenever O needed to go to the bathroom. When we took this issue up with the school we were asked "are you sure O is telling the truth?"

Excuse me? We changed schools soon after this.

However O's very first experience of bullying was at a playgroup that we attended when she was roughly 18 months old. At this playgroup a group of other 18 month and two year olds would corner her in the play area and physically lash out at her. At that point in time, she was physically unable to defend herself so I would step in. We stopped attending that playgroup after a month as the other children were relentless in cornering and lashing out at O. The parents of the other children would always respond with "oh they're just being kids" and "they're just working out the pecking order." The other parents would sit and laugh at the antics of their own children, while my daughter would be begging to go home.

No. No they're not. It is parent attitudes such as "they're just being kids" that perpetuate instances of bullying. So from that day forward, we've been conscious of ensuring that O and L know what bullying is. We want both O and L to have the power to stand up for not only themselves but also their friends.

So what is the definition of bullying?

In the dictionary, the word bully is defined as ...

"someone who uses superior strength or influence, to intimidate (someone) 
typically to force them to do something."

The dictionary also states that bullying is to "hound, harass and intimidate."

Put simply bullying is unwanted and aggressive behaviour that involves a real or a perceived power imbalance. The behaviour is repeated over time, must be aggressive and must include ...
  • an imbalance of power. This could be through the use of physical strength to control or harm another person. It could also be through intimidation of another person; and
  • there must be repetition of the behaviour. The behaviour must occur more than once or have the potential to occur more than once.
There are some train of thoughts that bullying only includes instances in which an individual is physically attacked by another but this is definitely not the case. Bullying can also include making threats, spreading rumours, attacking someone verbally, excluding someone from a group on purpose and many others.

Verbal bullying can include things like teasing, name calling, taunting someone and making verbal threats.

Social bullying is another form of bullying and occurs when someone is left out on purpose or when someone tells others not to be friends with a particular person as well as spreading rumours about a person.

It is important to remember that bullying is not simply disliking someone. However this can, unfortunately, easily lead to bullying.

Bullying occurs for many reasons, in fact there are unfortunately too many reasons to mention. It could be that the person doing the bullying has low self esteem, they could be angry or unhappy within themselves. The bully may have been subjected to bullying as a child and they unfortunately have not broken the cycle. 

The bully may want to be seen as cool or want to be one of popular people at school. The bully may just want to fit in. The bully may have issues out of school. The bully may think it is amusing seeing other people suffer. The bully may just be copying others. And finally the bully may not have respect for others who are different from themselves.

Many children who bully others, do it so that they feel stronger or better than the other child. And unfortunately many children who are bullies do not see anything wrong with what they are doing. Especially when the bullying is not physical.

A lot of verbal bullying issues comes back to the perception that words don't hurt.  And this attitude, unfortunately comes from the attitudes of adults who believe that because "they are just words," the effects of the verbal bullying are not long lasting.

As a child, a teenager and as a young adult I was subjected to bullying. It was never physical. It was always verbal and social bullying and let me tell you, the effects are very much long lasting.

The effects of "just words" can cause physical and psychological harm. And the harm caused by the words is not always obvious.

Someone subjected to verbal bullying can feel very alone, they can feel stressed, unsafe, afraid, angry and ashamed about themselves and they can also be left feeling very rejected.

I've said it many times before, and I will keep saying it.

Words hurt.

Words cut deeply and leave wounds that you can not see. Words hurt in places that are incredibly difficult to heal. Words don't go away.

Words eat away at you and your mind will replay the words over and over until you start to believe them.

Words, at times, leave deeper wounds than those that are left when you are physically bullied. Words can have long term very serious repercussions.

In all instances of bullying there may be bystanders in the immediate area. These people may not agree with what the bully is doing BUT they may feel afraid for their own safety if they speak up and defend the person being bullied for fear of being targeted themselves. In many cases these bystanders also become bullies.

And children who bully others, quite often grow up to be adults who believe that bullying other adults is okay.

We talk often with O and L about what they can do if they are being bullied or if their friends are being bullied. And I urge you to do the same with your children. 

Teach them that bullying is wrong. Teach them that words do hurt. Teach them that being different is a good thing. Teach them that standing up for others makes them strong.

Let's start a movement to end the cycle of bullying.

Thursday 6 June 2019

2019 Autism Memes Part 1

We're almost half way through 2019. Why does time go so fast? I've been on a roll for the first part of the year in creating memes for our social media sites and rather than wait until the end of the year to post them, here is Part 1 of all of the Autism Memes that I've created thus far this year. Plus a few that I've found along the way that I love!