Tie And Jeans

Modeling Projects or Process?

Tomorrow, I get my first class with a new group of young Makers. Tonight, to deal with my excitement and nervousness, I built a really crummy cardboard carousel.

It was a great afternoon at the kitchen table. Annika, hopped up on another Tinkerbell movie, ran in and out of the house gathering leaves and oatmeal cylinders for a fairy house. Our parallel play lasted for about an hour, with minor intrusions for help opening glue (me) and jigsawing dowels (her).



I’ve always made model projects, but my reasons have changed dramatically in the last few years.

When I did the math homework I assigned, I was proving that it was possible and readying myself for students’ questions the next day. It took a long time to realize I was wrong on both counts.


When I asked for something beyond math homework, I learned that projects that I modeled for classes were more successful than ones I simply described. It took a long time for me to recognize how much more that reflected on my conception of success than the value of my models.

Tonight’s carousel will stay at home for another week or two. It’s a nasty mess of pink foam and cardboard now, but there’s a few changes I’m still interested in making. But it’s job is already done. I made the model to take the simmering ideas out of my head and in to the world. Without that step, my conversations and support of kids would be tainted by my simmering enthusiasm for the project. Nothing stunts the maker spirit like a teacher with a ton of “ok, it’d be cool if…” ideas.

So I sacrifice my fingers to the gods of the glue gun and remind myself that my ideas don’t count for much the the world of cardboard. Being able to picture the mechanism isn’t far removed from watching a Youtube video of it, and neither are very close to building. Having built, especially having built badly, leaves me in a more honest place, more capable of supporting students as they develop their own ideas.

Because mine clearly aren’t anything to write home about.



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10 thoughts on “Modeling Projects or Process?

  1. Will you eventually show the class your example? I’ve found that a great rubric gives my students parameters for creativity, but that once I show them my own, I wind up with several quite similar to it.

    Blogged about that conundrum here. http://mrcbaker.blogspot.com/2012/09/giving-examples-defining-expectations.html

  2. tieandjeans on said:

    I’ll show them my version once they have a completed project, or two failed attempts that have progressed at least that far. I’d like to defuse the teacher/adult authority and have my work exist as a peer to theirs, and the only way I’ve found to accomplish that is wait until their work has surpassed mine.

    In this case, it should not take long. :)

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