For a number of years, I taught a summer class for gifted students in grades 3-6 entitled "K'Nex Amusement Park Rides and Technology". For most of the class, students worked together in teams to complete projects. However, I did not consider a project to be complete until the ride actually worked.
In the beginning, this seemed simple enough to the students. They had "K'Nexprints" that had been drawn up by experts who had then successfully produced working models from those plans. They had all of the necessary materials needed to build their rides. In addition to all of this, they had an experienced resident expert, me, who had over the years built these rides with hundreds of children. You would think this would mean that they would always produce working rides on the first try, right? Wrong! In fact, most of the time they didn't and that meant they had to go back and compare their model to the design and try to figure out where the error was. Interestingly enough, I got so I could predict where the error had probably been made.
Nowhere did these mistakes cause greater frustration than when they built an eight foot loop roller coaster. The cars just didn't want to go around the loop and/or make it all around the track but I was insistent. They had to go back to the drawing board and try to solve the problem. Many times they would try to insist that they had built it correctly. It just didn't work. Other times they would try to convince me that the design was wrong. I would just look at them, smile and tell them to get back to work until they had solved the mystery.
You know what? They always eventually figured it out. There were a few times I thought they wouldn't but they did once they set their mind to it and really paid close attention to what they had built and what they were supposed to have built.
One of my favorite teachable moments was when the plans had called for tiny green rods that were a centimeter long, to be connected diagonally to "connectors" in one section of the loop. Someone had decided that one of the rods was supposed to be straight rather than diagonal. Do you know that tiny change change the speed of the car enough that it couldn't make it around the loop? The children didn't believe that it could make a difference until after several failed tries, we put the rod in correctly and whoosh! That little car whipped around the loop and raced down the rest of the track perfectly. "See," I told the children, "little things can make a big difference."
There are little things in our lives that we think don't matter. It is "okay" for it to be there (or not be there) because it doesn't make any difference. Oh, we may still look the part and we may even seem to be running along smoothly until we come to a curve or a loop. Then all of the sudden we do not have enough momentum to get around it and stay on track. The small stuff really does matter.
This is really something! What a marvelous intellect God gave you, and this picture exemplifies what a gift He gave you as well to teach others. Now THIS is "excellence in teaching!" How privileged these children were to have you.
I LOVED everything about this story! Thank you so much for sharing it, K .
Interesting and yes, I agree, best practices in teaching! Impressive!