The Stanford Students Built a Model of the Earth

These high school students were afraid to dream bigger. A Stanford class is changing that.

By the time it was time for the first class at Stanford’s Center for Human Growth and Development, the students had built an entire classroom project out of scrap wood, a giant scale model, and an old desk.

They had worked for months to build a model of the Earth. One student had built a model of the body that a person’s hair grows on. Another had built a model of a mountain range.

One of the students built a model of a city. Then he built a model of a highway. Then he built a model of the state of California.

They did this even though the students had no experience building a 3-D model, and they had no experience with physics or any other type of math. They were there solely because they wanted to build the model of their choosing.

If they had not been there, the students would have learned nothing about their own learning as a learning community, and that would have been a disservice to everyone.

In “The Human Project,” a book by author and Stanford professor Clayton Christensen, he writes, “If you want to build a really, really big system, it’ll take some years. You have to let somebody step in. You have to let somebody build the thing. It is not easy to do that.”

That’s what the class was about. They were being called to a leadership role. They would be making decisions that would shape the future of their school and their society.

We all need to feel more confident and more sure of ourselves. We need to challenge ourselves to take risks, to go after what we desire, and to step out of boundaries where we aren’t good enough. We need to take risks in order to go after our dreams. To take risks is to grow. For children, it is an opportunity to explore themselves and to grow as human beings. Taking risks, however, takes courage and willingness to fail. The students’ courage to challenge their own limits as students and then as innovators in their own schools, is inspiring.

To be sure, you wouldn’t build a classroom model of the world in your garage or

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