Museum of Education?
by Nicholas D. Frankovits,
with L. Grant Luton
Ill bet I know what you plan to do after you read this sentence.
You plan to scan the article, not bothering to read most of it, and
find out just who Doti Corrigan is. So, who is Doti Corrigan? To answer that
question, I must share two experiences from my first years in teaching.
In 1970, while teaching science at Lakewood High School, in Lakewood,
Ohio, two of my students began arguing over who would get to wear a white lab coat that
hung in the lab. I was puzzled why each of them was so determined to wear the dingy old
thing. But, over time, I observed that whoever did wear this garment always acted
differently. They would put pens in the pockets, take better measurements, ask better
questions, and generally conduct themselves in a more conscientious manner.
The next year, as an experiment, I ordered
enough lab coats for the entire class. I allowed them to wear the coats some days but not
others, and observed the effect. When the students wore the lab coats, their performance
was consistently better than on the days when they did not. I knew then that I was on to
something, but what? Was the secret to successful science education to buy everyone a
white lab coat? If so, did it follow that Americas answer to low math scores was to
supply every student with a vinyl pocket protector? (I never did get the math teachers to
test this latter hypothesis.) These thoughts simmered on my mental back burner for nearly
twenty years, until the day someone handed me a piece of plastic pipe.
A local fiber optics company presented my students with the challenge
of solving a genuine business problem. It involved designing a more efficient method for
moving fiber optic cable through lengths of plastic conduit. When presented with the
opportunity to tackle this problem, their response was overwhelming. Never before did my
class have the opportunity to do something that would have a genuine impact upon the
business (i.e., "real") world. And then it hit me. The fiber optic cable was the
reality that the white lab coat had merely symbolized.
The bottom line is this: Students want reality, not mere
How many times have you
heard a student ask, "Why do I need to learn
this?" And you responded with, "Its
important. Youll use it later." What
if we applied the same logic to coaching sports?
What if a high school sports team practiced every
day, every week, every year? What if there were
never any real games, only real practices? Would
coaches honestly expect their teams to "make
a good showing", even after four years of
practice? Of course not! Yet, in school systems
across the country, this is exactly what educators
are saying to students: "Learn this today;
youll need it tomorrow."
For too many students, tomorrow never arrives. They fail to make a
connection between what is taught in the classroom and what is used in the real world. We
try to motivate students using every available means except the very one that we know
works with adults, namely, payment for services rendered. Intellectuals enjoy learning for
learnings sake, but what percentage of todays students are intellectuals? Many
students are heard to say, "I cant wait to get out of school so that I can
start making some money." Yet, ironically, their ability to earn money is based
largely on what they learn in school. Its the delay between learning and earning
that hinders many of todays students from getting the most from their education.
Bottom line #2: Learning equals earning.
Unfortunately, too many students learn this truth only after
they have graduated...or dropped out. Thats too late. Of course,
just giving money to students for high test scores is not the answer.
There are many ways for kids to earn more money, and more quickly,
than by just getting good grades. It is what the money represents that is so important. Money represents the "world out there",
the adult world. The experience of touching this world, and making
a positive change in it by applying what one has learned, permanently
impresses upon a student the genuine worth of his/her education.
These thoughts, and the experiences with
the lab coat and the fiber optics challenge, lead to the search
for other businesses with real problems which students could
attempt to solve. Eventually, along with a team of talented
educators and business people, I formed an organization to
do this very thing. The National Museum of Education was partly
created to develop a beneficial relationship between business
and education by.
- Providing students an opportunity to conduct research and
develop potential solutions to specific problems offered by
business and education.
- Providing students an opportunity to make an immediate, viable
contribution to business.
- Providing students an opportunity to contribute to the educational
database by solving educational problems.
- Providing the business community with a better educated, better
motivated, better qualified work force.
- Stimulating interest and involvement of the family and community
in business and education.
- Assuring participation by all types of students -- from
handicapped and gifted, college-bound and vocational --
in all activities sponsored by the Museum.
Since its inception, the organizations
success has been profound. In its pilot year alone, more than
4,000 inner city, suburban, and rural students helped solve
problems for business and education.
Funding for the Museum is sought predominantly
from businesses and granting agencies. When a business joins,
it is invited to contribute a genuine problem it would like
to have solved. These problems are compiled into a list that
is continuously updated and distributed to schools.
One company may submit a problem that is technical in nature,
while another may seek a marketing strategy for its product.
Our students have solved problems ranging from translating
technical manuals from French to English into developing a
warning device for approaching tornadoes.
An example, as it appears in our Problem List, is problem #33:
33. NO NEWS
"No news" is bad news for a local publisher. This paper is
distributed once a week and provides an after-school job for students. Problem is, if the
carrier decides to shoot a few hoops and stuffs the paper in the nearest trash receptacle,
whos to know? Its a free paper, so there are no complaints from customers.
Advertisers who are paying the publisher for ads, however, think people are reading them!
Find a way to check and see if the papers are being delivered, or devise an incentive so
the carrier will WANT to be sure he/she is delivering ALL the papers.
When a problem is solved, the solution
is submitted to the National Museum of Education, where it
is reviewed by a group of business people and educators who
judge it based upon:
- Science and/or mechanical ability20 points
- Practicality of solution20 points
- Completeness or clarity of solution20 points
- Cost effectiveness to business20 points
- Suitability20 points
(Note: It is doubtful whether "science and/or mechanical ability" would apply to
Problem #33. In this case we judge the solution according to the remaining four
categories, each worth 25 points.)
If a solution earns 60 points or better, it becomes eligible for a cash
award the amount being determined by the judges. These amounts may vary from $10 or
$20 up to $500. But, regardless of the cash amount, it has been my observation that money
soon takes second place to the personal satisfaction of having made a positive
contribution to the business world. In other words, the success experienced is
of more importance to the student than the money awarded. Money simply
becomes the means by which a student validates success.
Though a problem may be solved repeatedly, it remains in the problem
list until the sponsoring business requests its withdrawal. The reason for this practice
is that usually there are many possible solutions to a problem. After all, every product
on the market is a solution to some kind of problem. Competing products, whether
deodorants, automobiles, or dishwashers, each claim to be an improved solution to some
One of the unique features of the Museum
is its ability to develop entire programs from a single problem.
The first time this occurred was with problem number thirty-one:
31. CORES AND PLUGS
An environmentally responsible plastics company needs a solution
to a trash problem. Rolls of plastic sheeting have heavy cardboard cores (like the center
of a paper towel roll -- only 1 cm thick x 60 cm). At the ends (to support the spindles)
are heavy "plugs" made of a composite of wood chips and glue. These cores and
plugs do not break down in a landfill and pollute the air if burned. Can you think of a
way to recycle them?
One student (who had previously stated that "...the only
thing I know how to do is light a cigarette") took up the challenge
of solving this problem. He did so by using the cardboard cores
to design an ingenious piece of childrens furniture. Since
each of these tubes was extremely strong (each one held nearly a
ton of material), they were perfectly suited for this application.
The beauty of this students design is its ability to perform
several functions depending upon how it is positioned. Turned one
way it is a chair. Turned another way, it is a worktable. Turned
another, a drawing easel. This students high school Tech.
Ed. class manufactured a series of these "3-in-1 Benches"
for use by deaf and hearing-impaired children who participate in
group therapy sessions at a local university. The cash award did
not begin to compare to the sense of fulfillment this student experienced
as he watched his creation being used and enjoyed by these children.
Another student, Jeff Davis, used the same kind of tubes to design a
6 model rocket. This sparked the idea of a contest for local grade schools in which
classrooms, supplied with tubes, fasteners, and instructions, would build and decorate
their own rockets. High school students organized the contest and it was very popular with
both pupils and teachers. At the end of the contest, a $100 cash prize was awarded to the
classroom with the most creative rocket display.
This initial contest developed into a more
extensive program called "Journey to Planet-X",
based upon a thirty-five page curriculum, including four weeks
of activities in problem solving and space exploration, written
by the Museums staff. In the summer of 1993, Jeff presented
the "Planet-X" program at a workshop sponsored by
NASA Lewis Space Research Center where teachers from a twelve-state
area received rocket kits and curriculum for use in their
classrooms. At present, more than one hundred schools have
participated in the "Journey to Planet-X" program.
Log books created as a result of their activities are sent
to the Museums office to be judged by a panel of students
and educators and cash prizes will are awarded accordingly.
"But what about Doti Corrigan?" you ask. You have been very
patient and deserve to find out now. Doti was the first high school student in the U.S. to
earn a royalty for an invention that is now being used in schools and universities around
Photo: Doti Corrigan
Though the Museum is constantly awarding
money to students for good ideas, another company has joined
the Museum to create a program that is proving to be effective
nationwide. This program sprang from Dotis solution
to Problem #20:
20. SHOW ME
Some scientific concepts are difficult to get across to
students in the classroom. The Coriolis Effect is one. Can you think of a way to
effectively explain and demonstrate it in the classroom? If so, write a description of how
to construct whatever equipment or models you would need. Please include drawings.
For those readers whose Physics is a bit rusty,
the Coriolis Effect is the name given to the apparent deflection
of a projectile in space due to the earths rotation. If this
explanation is difficult to understand, you would benefit from Doti
Corrigans invention. (Aha! We finally get to meet
the mystery person.) She invented a device that demonstrates
the Coriolis Effect so clearly and cleverly that FREY Scientific
is now paying Doti a royalty in return for offering her device in
their latest catalog.
Though Dotis was the first, hers is
not the only student-developed product in the FREY Scientific
catalog. Many other students and teachers who helped solve
educational problems from our list are also featured. As a
result of this collaborative effort, FREY Scientific contributed
four pages of their catalog to announce an opportunity for
students and teachers to earn royalties and national recognition
by using their inventive skills. This program welcomes both
students and teachers to submit an original device that demonstrates
a difficult-to-understand science concept. If the device is
both effective and marketable, FREY Scientific is interested
in the possibility of paying a royalty in return for offering
it in their catalog. Each year, the FREY Scientific catalog
features more devices invented by students and teachers. Each
of these new products is identified by the Museum's logo.
Student- and teacher-developed devices are identified in the
FREY catalog with the National Museum of Education's logo
(picture shown with former logo):
By extending to students the opportunity to make
positive changes in the educational process, we help promote them
from passive spectators to active participants. In this way students
may develop a sense of ownership in their own education.
The National Gallery for Americas Young
Inventors is a fitting outgrowth of the Museums programs
and goals. As the Museum encourages and enables students to
take their education beyond the classroom, the National Gallery
immortalizes their achievements so as to inspire others to
emulate their accomplishments.
Whether taking a field trip to Planet-X,
designing a better environment for elephants, inventing devices
that effectively convey complicated scientific concepts, or
solving a problem for business, the National Museum of Education
provides unique opportunities to students. The Museum supplies
that missing yet vital ingredient in American
education: the opportunity to actually "test drive"
their education in real traffic.
At every grade level, in every subject area,
and with students of every caliber, the Museums effectiveness
is demonstrated time and again. An eagerness to continue learning,
without a teachers prodding, has characterized those
students who have participated in the Museums programs.
In this way, students have become convinced that education
is valuable; and when students believe that education is valuable,
then they will value their education.
I have answered the question "Who is Doti Corrigan?"
But, only you can answer the question "Who cares?"
National Museum of Education
...in Partnership for America's Future, Inc.
1145 Highbrook Street, Suite 308 • Akron, OH •
Voice: 330-376-8300 Fax: 330-376-0566