You Have To Follow The Plans

I think it goes like this." My head shot up at these words and I quickly approached the speaker who was adding some K'NeX pieces to the roller coaster section they were working on. There were no K'NeXprints (blueprints) in sight.

Before I reached the speaker, another child on his team spoke up. "Remember what the teacher said? You can't think it's right, you have to know it's right." Then he put on his teacher voice and gave my speech. "Look at the K'NeXprints. The plans are correct. If you follow the plans, the roller coaster will work. Don't guess, follow the plans."

Last week, I helped 14 children build 3 foot ferris wheels, swing rides, boom rides, two six foot spiral roller coasters and two eight foot loop roller coasters. The loop roller coasters in particular are extremely picky. If things aren't exactly right, they won't run properly and I don't consider them completed unless they run properly.

Actually, building roller coasters can teach you a lot about walking as a follower of Christ.

Follow The Plan!

Like my students, we often try to do things our way rather than God's way. He has given us The Plan . It is called the Word of God. Sometimes we need help understanding or interpreting the plan which is one reason God has given us the Holy Spirit. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. John 14: 26 God has also provided us with spiritual leaders and teachers who can help us as well.

Watch Out!

Over the years, I have learned about the common pitfalls which occur while building roller coasters. I always bring these things to my students' attention prior to beginning construction. I tell them about it, I often show them examples of these pitfalls and I also write notes of caution on the board. There are those who heed my warnings and those who ignore them. We need to always heed the warnings of God. If we don't listen to him, we will get ourselves into trouble which could have been avoided.

Pay Attention To The Little Details
This year, both teams of students made the same error. They completed their roller coasters and tested them. The cars made it around the loop just fine but they couldn't make it up the little incline to go around the figure eight. I scratched my head for a bit over this one. Both groups had been very careful about having me inspect the sections of the loop before they added them to their roller coasters. Could I have missed something when I inspected their sections.

While they were taking down their spiral roller coasters, I stared at one of the loops for a while. Then I noticed something. One of the connectors between the two sections of the loop was out of place. I moved it to the correct place but couldn't connect it. It was off by about an eighth of an inch.

The kids wanted to force it into place or just not put it there. I knew better than that. Something was wrong with the loop and that's why the car didn't have enough power to go up the short incline.

I carefully referred to the plans and looked at the loop carefully. Wait a minute, the loop started out right but why were those locking rods in the wrong location on each connector. It looked like they were wrong in four sections. I had inspected those sections myself. How could I have missed that? The truth suddenly dawned on me. Each section was shaped like a rocker. The only way you could tell which direction it was supposed to go was one end had connection rods in it and the other end did not. It connected to the section before it.They had been built correctly but they had been connected backwards!

The shape of the loop appeared to be right. All of the pieces (except one) seemed to fit together properly. The only thing it affected was the position of the locking rods. However, the change in position was enough to change the curve of the loop and it reduced the size by 1/8 of an inch.

I pointed this out to my students. They didn't believe it would make a difference. I carefully removed the sections and corrected them. It was too delicate work for the kids to do as the track was already on and it would be very easy to damage the entire roller coaster.

After making the correction, I put the connector in the correct place. Now it fit perfectly. The kids were still shaking their heads. That little bit just couldn't make a difference. The problem was the incline between the loop and the figure eight. What did the loop have to do with anything?

Everyone watched as someone started the car up the big incline. The car raced down the hill, around the loop, up the little incline and around the figure eight. It came to a stop at the bottom of the big incline where it had started it's journey.

There was dead silence for a moment. Then all of the kids started screaming and cheering. One boy just shook his head and said "I didn't think a little thing like that would make a difference!"

We have to watch out. Little things can creep into our lives. We might not notice them until it is brought to our attention that things aren't running just right. We may be tempted to say a little thing like that won't make a difference. We need to be careful. Little things can make a huge difference in our relationship with God.

We can't afford to be careless. We have to get this right!

Just in case you're wondering...

This roller coaster has over 3,000 pieces. Seven children between the ages of eight and ten built it. It took approximately eight hours to complete. This is also a great lesson in teamwork but that's another story!

Marsha Tyler Ronquist @kraftykatz ·

You must be an awesome teacher. How lucky these children are to knew you and be in your class.

If I had had a teacher like you I wonder, would I have tried harder? Would I have settled at being just an average student?

Wonderful analogy, follow the plan follow the Bible God's word.


Kirk M @blessings2you ·

WOW. Incredible analogy relating to spiritual matters.
How on earth did you keep their attention for so long? What kind of class were you teaching? Can every school district in America rent you to come show everyone HOW to really teach kids?
As KK said, if I had more teachers like you, I would have tried harder. Thank you for the inspiring and educational post!

Linda Young @savedbyegrace ·

Song of Solomon 2:15 ... the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.

Great lesson, K. And thanks for the picture, it sure helps to see it in 'action'.


K Reynolds @kreynolds ·

In answer to B2Y's questions...

  1. I'll answer that question in my next blog.

  2. I used to be a gifted/talented resource teacher in an inner-city public school for students in grades 1-5. The poverty rate was at 61% my final year in that position. Due to about five years of severe budget cuts, the gifted/talented program at our school (and most of the others in the district) was cut in 2004. I was able to salvage it slightly for one year while I taught kindergarten part-time but then it was done away with entirely. I've been in the regular classroom ever since. I used K'NeX as part of my curriculum to teach science, technology, critical thinking, interpersonal skills, etc.

For the past 12 years, I've taught similar classes in a summer program for gifted/talented students. Each class is a week long and meets all day. Most of the time the kids have selected their classes so they're pretty motivated. However, I have yet to meet a child who is not interested in once they have been successful at building something they thought would be impossible for them to do. Often the children have had no experience in working with K'NeX. It really builds their confidence when they are able to build something like this. I instruct them on how to read the K'NeXprints and inspect work as it is in progress. I also have to do some trouble-shooting particularly on the roller coasters. Their visual-spatial skills are developing and even many adults have problems reading the K'NeXprints at first. I tell the kids that people who are very good at puzzles will have an easier time reading the K'NeXprints at first. However, they will get better at it with practice!

  1. Somehow we have to find a way to teach kids how to apply information rather than just absorb it. There's got to be a balance somewhere. This can be a real challenge when you have nearly half of your students speaking limited English and around 70% of your students are in poverty and have parents with limited academic skills. It's difficult to have a child practice reading at home if a parent can't read very well.

Resources are a problem as well. All of these materials are owned by me. All of the books in my classroom library were purchased by me. All of the curriculum in my classroom except for reading and math were purchased by me. Of course, I have to provide supplemental materials for those subjects if I want to do something more. This is a common practice for teachers across the country. We pay for a lot of student materials out of our own pockets.

K Reynolds @kreynolds ·

Oh, by the way, this was just one of the roller coasters. Seven children worked on this one and seven children worked on another one. This was the second type of roller coaster they build. They had finished doing a spiral roller coaster the day before. The spiral roller coasters are six feet long and the loop roller coasters are eight feet long.

Kirk M @blessings2you ·

Thank you for answering the questions! I think what you are doing should be written up in some major newspaper. You may not realize how profound what you are doing is, for you have been doing it so long, but it is truly amazing to hear that there are still teachers out there who have such concern and love for their students to go the extra mile, or in your case--miles, to make learning a fun adventure instead of a mundane and boring torture.

Thank you for all you do and I know God must have tons of special rewards in store for you to enjoy, with your students, for eternity. Your willingness to buy materials and do whatever it takes to help your students is what Christian love is supposed to be all about. Two thumbs up for all you do!


Lisa Stoughton @everfaithful ·

I agree with B2Y you should be written up in a newspaper! As a teacher I feel the frustration of kids applying not just regurgitating info. That is a hard one.
As an art teacher, I didnt have to deal with it as much but my colleagues did. Blessings to you and your passion!

Lexy Boy @lexyb ·

wow we need to get some k'nex!

Do not include honorifics.

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