Teacher Throwdown: Make Something This Summer

No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks.

It’s June. The school year is done. Grades are in, students are out, and it’s time for two and a half glorious months of mai tais and piña coladas and not telling anyone to "Knock it off with the electric pencil sharpener, or, God help you Emilio, you’ll be doing it by hand for the rest of the year.”


When I was teaching, I managed to relax for all of ten days. Then it was a couple of months of analyzing my practice, scheming about ways to bolster reading scores with Mad Libs, creating a DIY version of the Yacker Tracker* with an Arduino (still in the works, two years removed from the classroom), and kind of missing all the shenanigans of 150 thirteen year-old kids in Oakland.

Summer is a great time to dig into project-based learning. It’s free time to get better at something that takes extra time. Building a project during the school year when you’re unsure of how it’ll work with your kids is for the brave or foolhardy. Or shop teachers. Making that project fit within your curriculum? Your budget? Your principal’s vision of studious children poring over a district-approved textbook? That’s insane.

So I issue this challenge to the educators out there on Instructables: pick a project, make it over the summer, then work it into a unit or lesson plan. Build it now so you can use it later. Because design challenges are somewhat more challenging when confronted by a classroom of 35 kids coming in after lunch on a hot day in August.

Use your summer. Adapt an existing project (like one of these, perhaps) or create something new just for your class. Channel your inner Phineas/Ferb** and put the 104 days of summer vacation to good use. In between piña coladas.

Send me a PM with what you’re building, or talk about it in the comments.

*The Yacker Tracker is a sound-controlled traffic light that changes based upon the decibel level in the classroom. It's a prize in the Education Contest that runs until Monday, June 4th.
**This is a Disney cartoon about two stepbrothers who build something every day over the summer. I highly recommend it.

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in my country, only have 1 month holiday...so sad.
i live in indonesia
poofrabbit4 years ago
OK first, I cracked up when I read this! Second, it appears the gantlets have been thrown, time to down a margarita and get to work! ;-) And Third (because if there is a one and a two there has to be a three) I guess maybe I'll work on two after also having mai tais and piña coladas......nothing says fun like a cocktail driven instructable!
"time to down a margarita and get to work" is not the catchphrase of the most successful teacher. :P

wilgubeast (author)  stupidityisanart4 years ago
It's sure been the catchphrase for all the best teachers I've ever worked with. I found that a beer or two definitely made sitting down for marathon unit-planning sessions more palatable.
I agree :-)
LanceMakes4 years ago
I'll be conducting engineering summer camps from June til August, so you'll definitely see more edu-ibles from me before the next school year begins!
wilgubeast (author)  LanceMakes4 years ago
Woohoo! Sounds good. I've been directing a lot of teachers toward your projects, so keep 'em coming.
Kiteman4 years ago
One hundred and four days?

Try forty over here...
It may only be 40 (and another 6 and a half weeks to count down though), but I intend to make use of every single one of them....

................After I finish off those pina coladas.
wilgubeast (author)  Kiteman4 years ago
104 is from the intro song to Phineas and Ferb. It's more like 70 days. Still obscene compared to the civilized world where anachronistic "help out on the farm"-length summers aren't the norm.
Oh, I knew the source - it's quite popular in the Kite household.
matthewabel4 years ago
No project. Yet. I'm in my first few years, so I'm moving around grades and rooms - I need to think of something easily move-able that will be useful in any classroom.
wilgubeast (author)  matthewabel4 years ago
Make something classroom management-ish. That'll move with you from grade to grade and room to room.

I always wanted a gamification-type system of classroom rewards tied to our state standards/school attendance goals. Or a lock-out buzzer system for quiz games. Or an easy system for scanning student essays to PDF so I wouldn't lose them/have to trek home with a few hundred pages to grade.
Let's build one!

The school I student taught had a fancy copier that would scan and email you the scans. It was pretty great. Most copiers can, actually, its all a matter of getting them set up.
if you have to be mobile, like some of our teachers, they live off a cart they wheel around. you could try to modify the cart- maybe a folding table top made of whiteboard (showerboard from home depot) or draping the sides with folder pocket shelves...
good luck!
No need for that kind of mobility - I'll have a classroom, but it will probably change from year to year.

Wilgubeast's idea of a lock-out buzzer system is pretty brilliant, though. Don't know anywhere that wouldn't be useful.
Goodhart4 years ago
Hmm, does this apply if I only have a "student" of one? It isn't as regular as schooling, but I do tutor and mentor a little, and my student does get home schooled as well.
wilgubeast (author)  Goodhart4 years ago
Absolutely. I wrote this to provide a figurative kick in the pants to teachers who might not otherwise make stuff. All are welcome to participate. (And once the Education contest wraps up, I'll run some Weekly Challenges to encourage folks who are motivated by robot t-shirts to participate.)
One more question then on this: since "my student" is taught pretty much all year, just not "every day" or even every week, can I "create and build the project" and use it either at the time or shortly thereafter? She really loves to help me build, and take apart things, so the "project itself" would be used......I mean, from the sound of it, you want something built that can be used later; but I was just wondeing of the "building of the project" could be used as the project (used at the time, and maybe later)?
wilgubeast (author)  Goodhart4 years ago
Yes. Whatever will be best for your situation.
Sounds great. I have a few things I and a young student will be doing this summer and want to see what kind of science format I can wrangle it into.