Stimulating Learning Projects

School is boring for lots of kids, regardless of Intelligence level (assumption alert - is there such a thing as an 'intelligence level'? it seems to presume a single number rating - IQ).

Some of this is due to process - chairs in rows, fixed class period length, isolation between classes. Those have to be fixed too! But if you design a good agenda, then let the structure follow from that, the structure will take care of itself that way.

Some big disclaimers

  • Lots of the notes below don't take into account (yet) ability level and prerequisites (e.g. you can't study the mathematics of flight if you haven't learned to multiply yet). (Learning Curve)
  • There are also often issues of how to maintain interest in a context when it takes a long time to learn the abstractions behind it (e.g. if it takes 2 days to build a catapult, but 3 months to learn the math that will result in a better design, what then?).
    • hmm, I think there's a bad assumption in there - I bet you could teach some amount of the math, then supplement it with automated tools ("CatapultBuilder") that would make that stuff really simple.
  • Since everything is intertwingled, any single topic can lead to anything else. I err below on the side of getting too tangential, for the sake of inspiration.

Some meta-ideas

  • use D And D approach to have outcomes and FeedBack
  • Game Theory: who are the various players/agents? What are their multiple goals (and meta-goals)? Do those goals conflict? Do they have to conflict? What are the rules in the game? How real are those rules - are they official rules, or just traditional forms of behavior? What happens if you break those rules in certain ways? Is there a way to change the rules? What pieces of information do some parties have which others lack? What are the implications? Why might players chose to share or hoard certain types of information?
  • open/dynamic systems: what are some causal links? Invent some more! Which ones seem the strongest? How can we test those theories? If we significantly change the state, does that change which causal links become most significant?
  • integrate studies with the lessons of General Semantics.

Some specific ideas:

Learning from Sept11 terrorist attacks

Math/Physics of athletics

  • punting, placekicking, golf club swing, ball throw: what are the goals (distance, time to target, accuracy, etc.). What are degrees of freedom of action? How might outcomes vary based on parameters of action (e.g. if you try to kick higher, how does that affect strength of the kick).

Build machines, study theory behind performance affectors

Build analog (maybe low-digital) Electronics (that do something cool/fun)

Micro Controller projects

Lab projects: Paul Nakada recommends and


Computer Programming

Arts And Crafts

Exposing Young Kids To Science


Do Outdoorsy Stuff?

Some sources of inspiration

  • Charles Eames' Mathematica (and Powers Of Ten)
  • somebody wrote a series of stories, each about a specific constant (e.g. the speed of light) from a physics equation. In the story, that constant was manipulated, showing how that would affect reality.

improv --2003/11/08 23:55 GMT
I would suggest having kids study Improv. I've taken improv classes as an adult. Improv teaches mostly through fun exercises and games.

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