The Amazing Wiki Seat (Part 2)

At this point I FINALLY had a teacher willing to participate in the Wiki Seat project/adventure with me and I was ready to dive in head first. I knew the initial introduction may be a little different and too open ended for most students. I prepared a short handout with “guiding questions” to help facilitate brainstorming for the students.

The guiding questions included:

  • What materials will you use? Will you use new materials, materials from other projects, or recyclable materials?
  •  What additional materials will you need? Paint, fabric, etc.
  • How much weight does your chair need to support?
  • What is the purpose of your wiki seat? Chair, table, or something else?
  • Would consumers want to purchase your seat? Are you designing your chair for a certain consumer group?
  • If a furniture designer wanted to reproduce your design how much would it cost to replicate?

I made my copies and with my catalyst in hand prepared myself for 3 classes of high school students. (I just came from a 5th grade class so I figured the personalities were pretty much the same.)
Monday morning I walked into the welding classroom with anticipation that the students would love this project and would think it was a nice change from the normal class projects.

I gave my short spiel about the background of the wiki seat and then passed out the guiding questions to help get the kids going.

This is the part that scared/disappointed me…..
I started getting questions and “the looks”:

  • What are we making? My response: A seat or other structure using this as your starting point.
  • Can I see an example? My response: Yes, but don’t you want to create something of your own.
  • What are we suppose to be doing? My response: Use this catalyst to create a structure.(Sound familiar?)
  • Do we have to do this? My response: (not appropriate for this blog)
  • Do I have to fill out this whole sheet? My response: No, this is just to help you get ideas.
  • The blank stare x 10! My response: In my head ” Did I just miss something here?”

Blank stare??? Really, have we sucked all the creative juices out of students by the time they reach high school?? I taught in a classroom for 10 years, I am pretty sure I gave good instructions while still keeping the project open ended to allow for student creativity. Why weren’t they getting it? Why were they still asking questions? Why weren’t they collaborating with their neighbors and giving each high fives?
Then it dawned on me….the students were so use to step 1, step 2, step 3 assignments that they lost the ability to THINK!!! They were so used to questions with ABCD answers that they didn’t know where to begin when it came to problem solving or creation.

I took a step back and started asking the students what they enjoyed doing when they were not a school. I soon discovered that I had a class with a football player, fishermen, music enthusiast, a gamer, a horse rider, a ping pong lover, and countless other unique students.

The juices starting flowing at this point and students started sketching designs for their wiki seats.
As they started sketching their faces were lighting up. This project was now meaningful to them and they wanted to create something unique to their personalities.


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Student Sketches!

I really loved the tailgate design! I thought this was a great way to recycle used objects and use more than one wiki seat.

At this point I started Tweeting the sketches to @WikiSeat in hopes to encourage more students to finish or at this point even begin sketching.

I particularly enjoyed watching this student sketch because he wanted his sketch perfect before I took a picture!


Fire pits were a popular item in the 3 classes!

After the students finished sketching they started to prepare their material list and calculate the cost of the metal they would need to complete their project. Many students realized quickly that the cost could be an issue and began thinking of items they had a home.

I  was feeling more confident about my decision to begin the project (at one point I thought about leaving after the first class and heading back to my office to hide.) . After the third class I convinced myself that the kids were going to “get it ” eventually. It would just take time and patience.

The welding teacher and I decided that the students’ first task would be to weld the catalyst and then take the wiki seat home to create their structure. I told the students that I would be back each week for the next 4 weeks to check on progress.
Stay tuned for the results of the project and parent feedback!

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