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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

solution.

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

mail.

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

system."

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

Gaule.

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,

coming up.

Technology Teaching Systems Inc., 39 Everett Drive,

Building D, Princeton Junction 08550-5307. Tony Gaule, general manager.

609-716-1500; fax, 800-679-0802. Home page: http://www.tts-group.com.

Top Of Page
Deaths

Robert H. Howe, 66, on July 16. He was an analyst at Princeton

Economic Institute at 214 Carnegie Center.

James J. Bloor, 58, on July 19. He owned Old Benchmark

Realty and had been a police officer with Princeton Borough and Washington

Township.

Peter A. Bordes, 71, on July 19. He founded Greater Media

Inc. in East Brunswick.

David Ogilvy, 88, on July 21. After working as a market

researcher in Princeton he founded Ogilvy & Mather in 1948.

Robert C. Kascik, 63, on July 22. He had been the service

manager of Princeton Nassau Conover Motor Co.

Marianne Pasley, 48, on July 22. She was a jewelry designer

and had worked at Firestone Library.

Alan Karcher, 56, on July 26. He had been chairman of

the Mercer County Democratic Party and state assembly speaker, and

he wrote "New Jersey’s Municipal Madness" (U.S. 1, February

17).


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