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This article by Barbara Fox was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on July 28,
1999. All rights reserved.
Teaching Technology: Hands-On for Kids
Kids don’t learn by subject area but by experience,
says Tony Gaule. They don’t come home and say "we studied opposing
forces." Instead, it’s "I built a bridge today."
Gaule, an Irishman who spent the first part of his career working
at Lenox, aims to add the fun of model-making and the excitement of
discovery to science classrooms. He moved the American headquarters
of Technology Teaching Systems from a home office to Everett Drive
in May. Based in the United Kingdom, it creates and distributes educational
materials covering hands-on science and design technology for elementary
and middle schools.
"The approach has taken off around the country," says Gaule.
To learn by doing is an integrated approach to problem solving: First
the students design a solution to the problem, then they make the
A typical problem: Take a card, dowel rods, spools, paper towel tubes,
tape, glue, and scissors. Build a wheeled vehicle with carrying capacity
and tipping function.
Another series of problems features carnival rides such as ferris
wheels, swings, and whirligigs. To make a merry-go-round from a yogurt
cup and a paper plate, fix a plate to rotate on a toilet paper tube
and fashion milk cartons into the shape of passenger seats.
Based in the United Kingdom, the firm has three staff members in Princeton,
several sales representatives around the country, and a sister company
in Canada. Kits range in cost from under $5 to several hundred dollars;
materials are manufactured around the world and assembled in several
locations in Canada and the United States. Kits are being sold directly
to school districts, at conventions, and most recently through direct
Gaule insists that though many publishing companies offer hands-on
science curricula, no one occupies his technology niche. "The
concept of technology is real-world problem solving," says Gaule.
"We are selling products that will give the kids the skills they
need when they get into high school. We are seeing great positive
reaction from high school science teachers for using it as a feeder
Gaule is working with the International Technical Education Association
(ITEA) on NASA’s program called Technology for All Americans, trying
to define standards. He is also working with such early adapting states
as New York, which is in the second year of a five-year project to
enhance its math, science, and technology curriculum. "We expect
that when national standards are adopted next March, more and more
states will come forward."
It’s no accident that this company is based in the United Kingdom,
known for its early work in integrating learning with hands-on activities,
and that it has a branch in Canada. The Canadian market is more mature
than the American market, more cross-curricular, says Gaule. "We
don’t expect to get rich quick."
The company also provides materials and trainers for teacher workshops.
"What we have that others don’t is the ability to go in and develop
not just tools and materials, but programs for teachers to roll out
and implement design technology. We run workshops. We teach districts
to run workshops. They in turn roll it out to teachers," says
At age six Gaule had his own first experience with technology education.
He grew up in Dublin, where his Madrid-born mother and his Irish father
had an industrial parts distribution business. His father, who was
trained as an engineer, brought home an electric train set. "I’d
be putting in a round track, and he’d be saying, let’s put an obstacle
there, and find a way to put the track around it or under it or over
it." After graduating from the University of Dublin in 1983 he
came to the U.S., earning an MBA from Rider while working for Lenox
for 10 years as an inventory manager. He is married to an accountant
at Schering Plough.
The company’s kits may resemble home-spun versions of an Erector set,
but they are not something you will want to buy to keep your child
busy during the summer — unless you are willing to sit at the
kitchen table and be your child’s teaching partner. "We would
like to explore the after-school program market or the home schooling
market, but it would need a very conscientious and a very forward
thinking parent to sit down and do it," says Gaule, "It’s
not a `here’s the pieces’ project."
Teachers can buy the $7 to $9 kits with all the materials needed,
including special hack saws that don’t cut little hands, or they can
buy the workbooks and assemble the materials themselves. "Sometimes
teachers don’t have the funds and need to improvise," says Gaule.
One $13 kit in the "wheels" series has enough wood, wheels,
and paper supplies for an entire class to build a land yacht. He will
work with a particular school district to adapt kits for specific
needs. "On the tip of Long Island they implement the curriculum
with a lot of work on lighthouses," says Gaule. One kit on lighthouses,
Building D, Princeton Junction 08550-5307. Tony Gaule, general manager.
609-716-1500; fax, 800-679-0802. Home page: http://www.tts-group.com.
Economic Institute at 214 Carnegie Center.
Realty and had been a police officer with Princeton Borough and Washington
Inc. in East Brunswick.
researcher in Princeton he founded Ogilvy & Mather in 1948.
manager of Princeton Nassau Conover Motor Co.
and had worked at Firestone Library.
the Mercer County Democratic Party and state assembly speaker, and
he wrote "New Jersey’s Municipal Madness" (U.S. 1, February
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