Tips for New Mentors / Teachers

Some Tips for the New Mentor

Know Your Task Before You Arrive
In addition to learning about high performance school design, it is also important to understand the children who will be carrying out the work. Things to ask: what is the age group and number of children, what are typical projects for this age group, and what is their knowledge of drawing, painting, cutting, model building, and brainstorming with new concepts as individuals and as a group. Find out about school and class rules.

Have a Plan
Don't arrive the first day without a strategy, but also be prepared to adapt each day to new needs. We found that with such a large group of children, many would only concentrate on a project for 20 minutes, so we changed up their tasks, and spent one-on-one time with each of them to keep them inspired.

The Teacher is Your #1 Ally
Having a wealth of information about the individual children and their skills, the teacher can also pitch in to help – which will save you a lot of time getting the project done! Also count on the teacher to enforce rules – the children will always listen to school-appointed authority more than an outsider.

Keep It Fun
We learned fast that some kids just will not cooperate on certain tasks – and if you force them, they will make your life difficult, very quickly. As a mentor, I did not find it my responsibility to force the children into doing anything – rather, I wanted them to always feel as if they were a special group of children with great strengths that were contributing to a great end product – no matter how they participated. If a child did not want to paint, then I would ask that child how he or she would like to contribute.

Always Keep the End Goal in Sight
I admit, part of the reason why our kids were so cooperative in the beginning is because we told them that if they won, they would be on TV – and, hey, it worked! Having little understanding of the overall gain that such a project has for their school and schools across the nation, we found that focusing on daily challenges and rewards that they could understand made them more willing to participate. Once the project was underway, a second source of inspiration for the kids was knowing that adults would be looking to their ideas to build better schools in the future.

Let Each Child Shine
From the first day, we were amazed at how many great ideas the kids had that we would never have thought of. We embraced these ideas and helped them to create their dream school, chocolate swimming pool and all. While the concept for a large mural was ours, it was their brilliance and inspiration that made it so colorful, three-dimensional, and terrific. Trust the kids, and with your guidance their ideas will shine.

Some Tips for the Teacher

Plan Ahead
Since time is of the essence once the project gets underway, it is important to have the kids prepared for that first day. Some simple discussions could be helpful to help the kids understand how the building around them helps to shape their education. Questions such as: "What would this room be like with no windows?" and "What is your favorite room at home to study in?" inspired some great discussions.

Work with the Mentors to Choose Supplies
The mentors will have a budget for art supplies to complete the project. Work with them to make sure that these supplies supplement, not duplicate supplies you already have. Offer suggestions for teaching methods – the teacher we worked with helped to get the kids to conserve supplies using her tested methods.

Lend a Hand
My mentor partner and I had to put in a lot of outside work to get the project completed by the end of the last day, putting all of the kids' hard work together and ready for display. It's amazing how time flies when you have 28 children to oversee. Help out as much as you can, particularly with a large group, to ensure that the project reaches completion.