George Lucas Educational Foundation

Learning the Basic Skills for Projects

Learning the Basic Skills for Projects

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A couple of things prompted me to post again; I gave a workshop on building a mousetrap car to teachers and I have been trying to tutor online a student building a model plane for Science Olympiad trial event, Wright Capacitor. First, building the mousetrap car with the teachers I found that they had as much trouble as the students, they were more patient however. For the model airplane, there is really no one at the school to advise with the basics. Today I mentioned that the electrical components need to be soldered. My best suggestion was to find a YouTube tutorial on soldering and practice. My point in writing is, if the types of projects that I have been doing like mousetrap cars, model planes, or rockets are part of the PBL experience, the teachers will need training and experience to pull this off. This is a video of the capacitor plane flying: Bill Kuhl

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Mary Kate Land's picture
Mary Kate Land
Montessori 4-6th grade teacher

[quote]the teachers will need training and experience to pull this off.[/quote]

That's why its best to start with projects which tap into an area of expertise for the teacher. I have found that I can develop capacity for a project as it moves forward as long as I have some basic understanding of the general principles. Without that, though, I need a very good set of instructions and a lot of practice!

Mary Kate

Bill Kuhl's picture

Good point Mary Kate. The experience I have from building model airplanes for so many years gave me an understanding of the general construction principles for constructing, adjusting, and refining the other projects.

Twila Busby's picture

Since it is hard to learn to do everything, this is a good place to use outside experts to come and teach students some of those skills they will need to do a particular project. While I am in total agreement that starting out with something you know is good, eventually we may not want to limit our students learning by what we are good at.

Bill Kuhl's picture

I ran across this video today of a technology class that was trying to build the type of model plane I have been trying to mentor. The students had good tools and plenty of materials and at least two instructors. What was lacking was any basic knowledge of aerodynamics. Not one single progject was successful. I have tried to contact them to offer help. If everyone fails, I wouldn't think it would be a good learning experience.

Mary Kate Land's picture
Mary Kate Land
Montessori 4-6th grade teacher

Good feedback for the teachers, eh Bill?

My students are currently involved in a project that I had no expertise in when we began. The first day I crocheted was the first day my students crocheted. We had a mentor teacher from down the hall helping us for the first few lessons. Then a few of us (my students and myself, independently and on our own time) went to the internet for more ideas and guidance. Some of the students have surpassed me in ability. I had to devote some time after the initial lessons to practicing on my own, but the process of passing on the ideas from person to person has been very efficient and totally decentralized. In this instance, learning along with my students worked out really well!


Bill Kuhl's picture

Someone I sent this to, wrote this: "I wonder where our engineers will come from in 2020? Certainly they won't come from this school. What an eye opening video this was for me. Its sad that our youngsters have no concept of what makes an airplane fly or any concept of how to build a flying model. With access to an internet where the information is readily available, these youngsters chose to disregard the info source and failed miserably. Ignorance? Laziness? Lack of curiosity? Yes, all of these. Pray for our country." This school was not in this country!

Susan Gauvin's picture
Susan Gauvin
Canadian, parent, homeschooling, raised in public education

The last comment about ignorance...etc

I feel my daughters excitement when she knows she can share a project, or gets praised for a project well done. "feedback" I'm looking for programs online that have some sort of feedback. I found pianonanny online as I homeschool. I was so excited...but soon realized, if she wasn't sharing with anyone...she wasn't excited about learning it at all. luckily I found a neighbor who's daughter plays and they get a 1 hr session to play together once per week. Now she's engaged. She's not doing it to please mom, not being told to practise because "she should", just playing...which is all I really want for her is to learn to enjoy in the process of learning.

Bill Kuhl's picture

I received a good news - bad news email from the students trying to build the capacitor powered model plane. Their plane had flown for at least 90 seconds until they could not see it any longer. I replied, you have discovered thermal lift, this is what keeps the eagles, vultures, and the hawks soaring without flapping their wings. Now they will have to build another plane before the contest but that will be inside so it can not fly away.

Susan Riley's picture
Susan Riley
Arts Integration Specialist

I posted this in the integrated curriculum forum, but thought you might appreciate it as well. In case any of you are interested or know someone else who would be, is offering a 3-week online course on arts integration twice this summer. It covers what arts integration is, provides ways it can be used and the research supporting it, provides lesson plan examples and opportunities for writing them and then guides you through writing an implementation plan for your individual school. Plus, you end up with an online portfolio that you can take back with you. If you'd like more info, try this link:
This course has limited spots available, so if you'd like to register you might want to do so soon. I think it would help a lot of people on this forum to identify ways to use the arts within their projects and to build (or find the people who already know) the skills you need for these types of projects.

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