June 29th, 2012
11:14 AM ET

Opinion: Why teachers should put students to work

Editor's note: Simon Hauger started Philadelphia's "Sustainability Workshop," a program for inner-city high school seniors that's organized around projects rather than traditional curriculum. Students build electric go-karts and solar charging stations. CNN's "The Next List" will feature Hauger on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.

By Simon Hauger, Special to CNN

(CNN) – Working with teenagers is wonderful. They are a joy and a challenge. They are youthful optimists who believe in their power, and have boundless energy. Young people don’t know what they don’t know, and rather than making them arrogant, it fills them with hopeful idealism. As teachers, it is our job to make direct and audacious demands on their idealism.

My journey began 14 years ago in an after-school program I created at West Philadelphia High to engage kids around math and science. My students entered and won the Philadelphia Science Fair, something kids from West Philly weren’t supposed to do. Then we grew the program into the Electric Vehicle (EVX) Team. We built a full-size electric vehicle that outperformed top universities in the nation’s largest alternative fuel vehicle competition, the Tour de Sol. We went on to create the world’s first hybrid super-car: an awesome hybrid vehicle that was fast and environmentally friendly. At a time when most people had never heard of hybrids, West Philly students were building cars that were greener than the Prius and hotter than the Corvette. The EVX Team was gaining traction and recognition.

Our team of urban students won multiple national titles putting us in position in 2008 to be the only high school in the world to enter the $10 million Progressive Automotive X PRIZE.  Although we didn’t win, we made it to the semi-finals of the competition. We built and raced two cars surpassing 90 of the original 111 entries. It was a wild ride that won us a trip to the White House.

But what does this have to do with education?

Read the full post on CNN's What's Next blog

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Filed under: Extracurricular • STEM • Voices
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Convoluted

    oh sorry kids way to go sound like you have a committed teacher/s. Thanks to them also for putting in the time kids love to learn if they have someone that listens!

    July 1, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  2. Convoluted

    I think their points are excellent. The grammar ...I like the ideas more than I like the sentence mistakes ...have you listen lately to how people grunt for replies...

    July 1, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  3. josef

    As a teacher if you expect results students will almost always rise to the challenge but, the project has to mimic the real world with absolute du-dates and requirements that have to be strictly followed. However, I find many coworkers and administrators initiating projects that don't have quantifiable goals in place these kinds of projects harm students and only act to inflate grades and wast time and foster behaviors that wont allow students to be successful in the real world.

    June 29, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Moncada

      I agree with you, in school I loathed learning something that was not relevant to the real world or that I had no interest in, but that's all finished.

      June 30, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • rumple

      As a teacher, I would be embarrassed to write these two sentences with so many errors. Shame on you!

      June 30, 2012 at 8:04 pm |