I expect that when car manufacturers design a new vehicle they carry out extensive research to inform the design of an innovative, functional and appealing product that is fit for purpose. That’s what the children were required to do in week one of our three-week “Construct a Moving Vehicle” project. In week two, they moved on to generating, developing and communicating ideas through discussion, making sketches and producing labelled diagrams.
Week three began with a sigh of relief that the manufacturing process could finally start. Primary students don’t always recognise the importance of planning in the technological process. They think you can go straight into full-scale production without needing a detailed strategy.
This is especially true of kinaesthetic learners like Jake, whose experience of a practical curriculum normally involves cutting out mixed up sentences and reordering them.
The idea of making a car revved him up like Lewis Hamilton. But when he realised that a junior hacksaw was so far down the creative process he’d need to build a telescope out of cardboard tubes to see it coming, he lost control of his emotions and span off at turn one.
In order to resolve the situation and cut a long tantrum short, we gave him a box of resources and left him to his own devices.
Primary students don’t always recognise the importance of planning in the technological process
While Jake rummaged, his peers formed production companies. They gave themselves names like Velocity Enterprises and Red-Hot Racing. A teamwork approach allowed them to combine their various skill-sets, which, in turn, utilised their strengths, eradicated their weaknesses and maximised efficiency.
After three weeks (and despite boardroom squabbles, demarcation issues, a management takeover and bouts of shop-floor unrest) every pupil had a product to be proud of.
None more so than Jake, whose vehicle was up and running halfway through week one. During week two, he added a number of modifications that made his Firebird the envy of his peers. By week three his practical skills were in great demand. Where wheels refused to turn on their axles, the solution revolved around Jake. Where propulsion systems failed to propel, Jake was called in to give them a much-needed boost.
Now, it just so happens that I have limited practical skills, so when Mrs Eddison put “construct shelving and storage system in utility room” (or words to that effect) at the top of my holiday to-do list, my impulse was to ignore it. When I later discovered that ignorance wasn’t going to lead to marital bliss, I remembered Jake and came up with a four-stage plan:
- Take Pete (a mate with practical skills) for a pint and ask his advice;
- Accept Pete’s offer to view site and propose a solution;
- Agree that Pete will act as quantity surveyor with authority over acquisition of materials;
- Assist Pete during building process by locating, passing and holding various tools.
A few days later, Pete and I are back in the pub where our conversation has mysteriously veered in the direction of plumbing. Is this a coincidence or is it because the next item on my to-do list is “mend dripping tap in bathroom”?
Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield