Periscope offers fun, educational kids' courses this summer

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

It seems Benjamin Franklin and Markus Roberts share a philosophy regarding teaching and learning.

Roberts will be putting this philosophy to practice in three week-long sessions at Periscope Books & Tutoring in Forest Grove this summer, beginning the week of July 14 and ending the week of Aug. 1.

Courses vary widely and are influenced by his experiences teaching unusual subjects to diverse groups for more than thirty years. Imagine fashioning a musical instrument out of recycled materials, coaxing music out of it and being part of a YouTube video performance even without any musical experience.

Imagine constructing castle walls then figuring out how to assault them with devices that, “... bash, toss and fling,” as Roberts puts it. Imagine learning a language called Python, key in writing computer games and useful for everything from websites to 3D animation software.

Lorri Nandrea of Periscope Books & Tutoring LLC describes Roberts as the mastermind behind courses designed to do all of that and more.

“Markus Roberts is incredibly knowledgeable and engaging,” Nandrea said. “We are really lucky to have him teaching these classes here in Forest Grove.”

Roberts describes his teaching methods as an “idiosyncratic grab bag of tricks I’ve picked up over the years, loosely centered on the use of humor, hands-on experience and the unexpected to create situations in which students find themselves personally vested in solving a problem that is just on the edge of their abilities.”

As a result, Roberts said his classes often turn out to be something of street theater, mental obstacle course and physics lecture.

Unlike most people who start out with a teaching goal, Roberts concentrates on challenging the class to accomplish something. If he can convince them the challenge is an engaging one, the rest follows naturally as learners become involved in the quest.

If students need help meeting the challenge, Roberts might suggest an approach based on an individual’s learning style. If no help is requested, Roberts may just monitor their efforts.

“Often, what they need is to be left alone to work,” he said.

“Practice,” Roberts said of arriving at this place in his teaching career. “And a lot of reading about cognitive science.”

The first course, DIY Musical Instruments, is based on the premise that, “music hides inside everything from rulers to jam jars” and students will produce their own instruments and, along the way, learn about the physics of sound, the basics of music theory such as pitch, rhythm, timbre and harmony.

And a performance on YouTube pulls it all together. This class runs July 14 to 18, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is suitable for ages 6 to 14.

This second of Roberts’ trio is called, Siege Engine Workshop. The principal behind the course? “The best defense is a good offense,” according to Roberts.

And if you’re talking about a castle, as Roberts is, you’re also talking about turning sticks and ropes into working scale models of castle weapons. Students will also build a pair of castle walls and learn carpentry, history, ballistics and physics.

The class runs July 28 to Aug. 1 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s suitable for ages 10 to 14.

“Fun and Games in Python” does not require any previous programming experience. Students will study this dominant programming language, which is used in Gmail, YouTube, robots, medical equipment, scientific experiments and 3D animation software, and, of course, games.

“One week won’t make you an expert, but with the provided text book and online resources, you can continue to progress on your own,” Roberts said.

Students get to keep the text book. The class will meet Aug. 11 to 15 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is open to teens ages 13 to 18.

Self-described as “the crazy uncle/mad scientist” part of Periscope Books & Tutoring, Roberts’ instructional methods embody Ben Franklin’s preferred teaching style: “Involve me and I learn.”

More information

- Learn about classes at Periscope Books & Tutoring at or by calling 503-746-5669.

- There will also be a six-week study skills course, K-12 reading group, ACT/SAT preparation courses and writing, French and math study groups.

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