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As an educator, I am always looking for ways to expose people to new ideas and new experiences, while broadening my own cultural horizons. As such, the idea for combining the popular recreation of mini golf with a variety of artistic media seemed like a natural fit, and is something I have been working with for a long time.

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Great American Teach-Off Finalist Christopher Pennington Makes a Case for His Classroom

Some of you are old enough to remember taking wood shop class, or home economics, or even auto shop. Some of you have no idea what I'm talking...

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9EkcUoKCSA
Some of you are old enough to remember taking wood shop class, or home economics, or even auto shop. Some of you have no idea what I'm talking about. That's because vocational ed classes like these have been on the outs for decades. The last dozen years have been particularity harsh to these types of classes. In an environment where rigid standards and bubble sheets rule the day, hands-on skills like fixing a bicycle or baking a loaf of bread can take on an almost abstract and puzzling countenance. How can we allow our students to waste time making things?\n
I am a learning disabilities teacher at Edison High School in Minneapolis. My high school used to have all sorts of hands-on curriculum available to our students. We used to have a four bay auto shop. We used to have an amazing wood shop. We had a culinary arts program. We had a green house. Sadly, not one of these programs exist today. Today, we have lots and lots of computer labs and clicking on a mouse is about as hands-on as we get.
Things really changed for me about a year ago when my principal gave our program permission to take over one of the abandoned bays of the auto shop and create our own wood shop. We relied on the donations of our friends and family. We bought what we could not scrounge. Our students learned how to measure and how to saw. We learned how to sand, paint and stain. We built bat houses. We even sold them! I saw a level of intrinsic motivation in my students I had never seen before. They were hooked. I was hooked! We had to build more of these kinds of learning experiences.

One year later, we have expanded the program to include a cooking class, a green house and a bicycle repair shop. The students are engaged in their learning and we are just scratching the surface of what kinds of curriculum are possible. How can we provide for our community? How can our community inform our classes? What about partnerships with local businesses? It's a very exciting time for us!

The biggest growing pain we are experiencing is in the area of funding, of course. We have a $200 annual budget. We spend that almost immediately and the rest is shouldered by the teachers themselves. As our programs have grown, our costs have swelled, and it is becoming ridiculous to think we can continue to pay for it all our of our pockets.

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This post is brought to you by GOOD with support from University of Phoenix

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The Great American Teach-Off: Round Three of Voting Begins Today!

This post is brought to you by GOOD with support from University of Phoenix GOOD and University of Phoenix are close to narrowing down the...

This post is brought to you by GOOD with support from University of Phoenix

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Reminder: Nominate Your Favorite Teacher in The Great American Teach-Off 2013

This post is brought to you by GOOD with support from University of Phoenix GOOD and University of Phoenix are excited to report that the...

This post is brought to you by GOOD with support from University of Phoenix

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