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Showcasing Perry Lopez and "The Wright Brothers Project"

"I originated the Wright Brothers Project as a way to reach out to students who were not meeting the curriculum standards given to us by the state and district," explained Perry Thomas Lopez. "I wanted to present the curriculum in a more tangible manner."

The head of the great white shark made by Lopez's fifth graders

Lopez, a teacher at Timothy Dwight Elementary School (P.S. 33) in Bronx, New York, helped his fifth grade students develop an understanding of the importance of the historic first flight and its contribution to the world by constructing with them a replica of the Wright Brothers 1903 Flyer. The model weighed more than 75 pounds and measured 22 by 10 feet; it would undoubtedly present a daunting challenge for most educators, but Lopez also is a licensed electrician!

"The classroom itself was transformed into a Wright Brother's museum," said Lopez. "Exhibits included a puppet show, family tree section, assembly line for a small model of the 1903 Flyer, memorabilia section, technical schematics, printing press, and more."

When the project was complete, the students shared their accomplishment by playing host to other students, family members, and district representatives. The students' families had supported the project from beginning to end and were amazed by their children's passion for research. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NASA have acknowledged the students' work as well.

Bronx, New York, teacher Perry Thomas Lopez

The success of the cross-curricular Wright Brothers project prompted Lopez to take on two similar projects: a 17-foot replica of the Brooklyn Bridge, and a life-size, 100-pound great white shark made of wood, poultry netting, and Styrofoam!

"Teachers need to follow an activity that will inevitably spark a young child's life in some way," Lopez offered. "Give that thought a possibility and then seek its transformation into a reality."

"I did not complete these projects alone," Lopez added. "My students deserve credit for their dedication and commitment. My reward comes every year, when former students come back to visit me and express their thanks. That is my favorite part!"

Photos courtesy of Perry Thomas Lopez.

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If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected]

Article by Cara Bafile
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