Involving Young People in Scientific and Engineering Project Work
1. The success of a project depends primarily on how well it matches the character, capabilities and aspirations of the pupils. It demands the utmost from the teacher to get this right in perception and sensitivity. He must understand the pupil and his family background. The project must be big enough· to excite but not too big to be daunting or tedious. Much depends on sensing qualities in the pupil, which may be scarcely revealed, that the project will develop. Most of these qualities are of character rather than scientific technique.2. Choosing a project for a young person is rather like considering a climb for a young mountaineer. It must be of the right length and difficulty. It must suit his equipment. It must be possible to complete by the pupil with his teacher if they have not climbed it before. The climbers must be belayed at all times. In project terms it means that they must be able to contact someone who can solve any unexpected technical difficulty. The belaying of the pupil concerns the emotions as well as the technical side and the teacher must be able to get him out of these difficulties too.
The climb must not be too difficult at first or the pupil will become disheartened. Ideally, it should have several avenues of approach so the pupil gains experience in planning. The pupil will have ideas of his own during the climb and these must be seriously considered. If he wishes to go in a direction that the teacher thinks is a dead end, he should be allowed to do so, if there is time and subject to proper belaying, so that he learns by experience. There is always the chance that the pupil may have found something new. At all times the teacher must be transparently honest with the pupil.