Americans tend to know little about the rest of the world. We also trail far behind in our knowledge of foreign languages. It was my intention to help improve the situation. Rather than try to change adults who are already set in their ways, I decided it would be best to target children for intervention. The next question was, which children.
In looking at current offerings, I noticed a lack of culturally focused toys for boys. Further research revealed the prime age for learning another language was between the ages of 8 and 12. As the formal education of children is better left to professionals, I felt my time would be better spent in instilling in them an interest in foreign cultures. If possible, it would probably be best to get them interested in a culture before it was time for them to start learning a language; so, I decided to target the 4 to 7 year old range.
Though it seems like a focused group, the development levels, and play styles within it are very diverse. I needed to develop a play system that accommodated as many of them as possible, and I chose a three pronged approach. The basis of it all is the classic building block. The simple stacking play and bright colors are well suited to the 4 year old. The second element was a computer based information system that interacted with the blocks through RFID. Placing the block on a dedicated reader would bring information related to a given country onto the screen for the child to peruse. Game elements could also be incorporated. This is a learning and play style well suited to 7 year olds. Finally the system would incorporate playsets that could be accessed through the computer interface and printed out. This provides not only an imagination bases means of play, but also the opportunity to craft based interaction.
I hope, through this, that my project will appeal to a broad section of a narrow group.