I read an article in the local paper several months ago about a unique project in a special education class. In the class the teacher really focused on using the students' interests to bring daily lessons to life, and it just so happened that one of the teacher's students was in love with trains. So it became the teacher's quest to bring trains into the classroom.
It's all well and good to read books and watch videos about trains, but sometimes you need something a little more hands-on. So naturally, the best way to bring trains into a classroom is to install a model train display.
Of course, model trains can be expensive, so they had relied on members of model railroading clubs and other benefactors to provide donations, and of course, they were more than happy to support the love of a young hobbyist when it was such a good cause. But once they had the basics, they didn't need a lot of money to round out their display. With creativity and ingenuity, they were soon building their own villages and scenery for the trains, developing important math and reading skills along the way.
While it started with just one student wanting to learn more about trains, soon everyone was enthralled by the subject. They were having so much fun, they never realized they were learning at the same time. The student who originally brought his love of trains to the class blossomed in this new environment because he suddenly became the subject expert on this newly important topic. His increased confidence and newfound love of school was even more valuable than any specific school skills he may have gained.
At the time of the article, the students were trying to raise money to pay for a bus to take them to Crossroads Village, a local park that focuses on colonial life but, more importantly, offers train rides on the Huckleberry Railroad. While model trains are entertaining and educational, sometimes your love for the vehicles makes you want something life-sized.
As a former educator, I was inspired by the article because of the way the teacher used something like model trains to engage her students in learning. Hearing about the appeal of the model trains to these students also made me think back on the few times I've seen a model train set. I've always been interested in miniatures, and these trains were miniatures at their best. I know that it's never too late to start a model train hobby. Maybe someday I'll have to indulge in the iconic image of the train around the Christmas tree.
Whether you're a parent or a teacher, consider adding a model train to your educational repertoire. Students will delight in the tiny world that they can create. Along the way, they can learn about ratios, proportions, measurement, economics, the science of trains, and almost any other topic you can relate to the models. Working with such small pieces requires fine motor skills, and student develop patience when creating tiny accents for their trains involves painstaking work.