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Is Project Based Learning a growing trend in the marketplace?

November 16, 2009

I have been a vocal advocate for Project Based Learning as a important component of a successful academic institution like Saline Area Schools.  We are very fortunate to have many staff that have embraced this method of instruction.  We are also privileged to be the main host site for the SWWC and the numerous hands-on programs they offer.

I read an article from Friday’s Wall Street Journal about the growth of “tinkering” at some very well respected institutions of higher learning.  Here is a quick quote:

“There have always been hobbyists, but it was really hard to go from being a hobbyist who built hot rods to becoming a car company,” says Erik Kauppi, a member of at A2 Mech Shop, an Ann Arbor, Mich., workshop where tinkerers pool tools they own. “But now, all of a sudden a guy or a couple of guys have a lot more leverage.”

The electric scooter that Mr. Kauppi, who is 49, developed at the workshop is now in production. His business, Current Motor Co. in Scio Township, Mich., plans to begin shipping its scooter, with a starting price of $5,500, this month.

It’s great to see a local entrepreneur quoted.  It is also exciting to see a growing trend in this method of hands-on exploring and innovation in an age of computers/information.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2009 11:54 am

    I think the most interesting part of that quote is that this invention was created as a result of many mechanics coming together and sharing their tools. By getting kids to work together and pool their collective resources (mental and otherwise) great things can happen!

  2. November 17, 2009 10:48 am

    Another interesting article on the role of gender in “tinkering”

    In the current issue of Education Week, teacher and researcher Lisa Damour mentions the familiar reasons – insufficient female role models, preferring to work in the helping professions, avoidance of the “isolated geek” image – but she believes there is another explanation: as boys grow up, they are given more opportunities than girls to tinker. “By approaching computers and other mechanical devices as toys,” says Damour, “boys are able to learn how they function from the inside out. When tinkering with programming, they develop an intuitive understanding of how computers work. When tinkering with machines, they develop their mechanical reasoning, an arena of cognitive skill that boasts one of the largest of all gender gaps.”
    Why don’t girls tinker as much? First, adults don’t encourage it, according to David Sadker in his 1994 book, Failing at Fairness: How Our Schools Cheat Girls. Teachers show boys how to work staplers or VCRs, but with girls, they staple papers and start VCRs for them. Second, teachers give boys ample wait-time if they are struggling with math problems – but quickly “rescue” girls in the same situation. “By intervening rapidly with girls,” says Damour, “adults let them know that they should be afraid of doubt, investigation, and experimentation – all the essential elements of tinkering.” And third, girls are socialized to prize getting good grades and results, not dilly-dallying and experimenting along the way. “Having mastered an education system that prizes outcome over process,” concludes Damour, “girls can be at a loss when asked to engage in a method that may or may not produce a polished finished product.”

    Here is the link, but it requires a subscription –

  3. November 22, 2009 10:28 pm

    If one where to visit our tech classes on any given day one would find a substantial enrollment of female students. The district allows tinkering to take place. Groups of students both male and female rebuild engines, our agricultural tech students work jointly together to yearly score in the top percentile in state competition and the list goes on. This examples of programs that allow our students to collaborate and garner vocational experience relates directly to the fore site of previous administrators and boards of education. Vocational education is part of our heritage and has allowed many Saline graduates to experience productive lives after graduation.

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