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Spacial Ability and Building Projects

Bill Kuhl

After the recent model airplane classes and the College for Kids class before that I have been thinking a lot about why kids have such a hard time looking at an example completed model airplane or other project and visualizing how the parts go together. To me it seems so obvious but then I have been working with these types of problems for a long time. For example the stabilizer of the model airplane has the curved shape to the front and is straight in the back. The vertical fin has the same arrangement but goes vertical from the stabilizer in the center at 90 degrees. It seems so simple after looking at a sample but always there will be some kids that try to attach the vertical fin in some other manner.

I started following the articles of Annie Murphy Paul on learning and brain research and found the article on spatial ability rather interesting. This quote in particular: “The ability to mentally manipulate shapes and otherwise understand how the three-dimensional world works turns out to be an important predictor of creative and scholarly achievements, according to research published this month in the journal Psychological Science.” Also interesting is that these skills can be improved on “spatial skills are malleable, durable and transferable”: that is, spatial skills can be improved by training; these improvements persist over time; and they “transfer” to tasks that are different from the tasks used in the training.”

Business Insider did a similar article : . This article includes some example problems.

Bill Kuhl