Earlier this year during the Spring I conducted a Make it Take it clinic with my youngest son Michael's second grade class at Rancocas Friends Academy. I had originally discussed the possibility of holding this session with the teacher of the class at the beginning of the school year. However, due to a number of factors, I was not able to hold it until the school year's end.
Things ended up turning out great this way, though, since most of the children's schoolwork had been completed by the end of May. Also, they were beginning to get wound up, becoming antsy about the last day of school rapidly approaching.
So, on Thursday afternoon on May 29th, I showed up with model kits and modeling supplies. I had dropped by earlier at the beginning of the day and gave Teacher Dee - (the teacher of the class) - instruction sheets that contained something called The A-B-C-D's of Model Building. I wanted her to review them with the children ahead of time.
(Background & getting started)
The A-B-C-D's of Model Building is a term that was originally coined by a guy I know named Tim Lingle. Tim has been conducting these "Introduction to model kit building" sessions for many years now.
From several of his classes that I assisted him with along with conversations that we had on the topic I was able to learn much of what he tries to incorporate into his programs. The A-B-C-D's of modeling is one of these items.
In case you're wondering, the A-B-C-D's of model building are:
A - ALWAYS CHECK YOUR INSTRUCTIONS.
B - BE SURE TO TEST FIT YOUR PARTS BEFORE YOU GLUE
C - CUT OFF ONLY THE PARTS THAT YOU NEED.
D - DON'T BE IN A HURRY!
What Tim does in his classes is instead of just giving the children an activity to participate in, he tries to instruct the kids on the "correct" way to put a model together. Tim tries to help them avoid some of the problems and pitfalls that one can run into when building a model, while helping the children establish a strong foundation of building skills that will hopefully enable them to experience years of model building fun.
I've borrowed many of Tim's ideas, incorporating them into the modeling clinics that I've conducted
In addition to the A-B-C-D's of model building, I also introduce the children to sprue cutters, teaching them the correct way to use these tools, along with informing them about their usefulness.
I ended up purchasing bottles of Testor's Liquid Cement (found in those strange looking, black applicator boxes) for the session. I wanted to use them because this type of glue can be applied more precisely to the model parts than with Testors' traditional tube glue. Since the liquid cement is also thinner than the tube glue, the application tends to be less sloppy.
I try to get the kids to be conscious of the amount of glue they use, since they usually use much more than is required.
Another thing I teach is the use of Elmer's White glue for attaching clear parts. I have the kids use toothpicks to apply the glue. Since regular glue crazes clear plastic parts, I figure that teaching them this trick - (that took me years to learn) would put them ahead of the game.
The model kits I brought were Testor's 1:72 scale Messerschmitt BF109F World War II fighters.
There are a total of four airplanes in this World War II series: an FM2 Wildcat, a Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero, a Supermarine Spitfire MK22 and the aforementioned BF109. (I was told that these kits are from old Hawk molds that Testors acquired).
The reason these are good beginner kits is because of the small number of parts that each contains - (around 11 or 12). These models are pretty sparse, though. They don't even contain cockpit detail. However, the kids donít seem to mind.
The simple, straightforward construction steps are another reason these kits are ideal choices to start kids out with.
Testors has been donating these models for MITI programs over the past 5 to 10 years. I just happened to have a number of them left over from a previous model building session that I assisted Testors with.
(The building session)
I arrived at the classroom and introduced myself, along with asking the kids to tell me their names.
Then, I quizzed the children on the A-B-C-D's of modeling. I awarded a Testors catalogue to those who got the correct answers. I was surprised that just about all the kids put their hands up when questioned.
Next, I passed out the instructions and had the children look over the picture diagram for a minute or two. I talked about what they were seeing, along with discussing the order of the assembly steps.
Following this the sprue cutters were distributed. I talked about them and demonstrated how to use them.
Next, the glue were removed from their packaging and distributed, followed by passing out the model kits. I reminded the kids about the A-B-C-D's of modeling and asked them to remove everything except the clear canopy from the plastic bags.
Before I let the kids begin building, I briefly talked about the glue that they were using. I explained how their glue actually melted the two pieces being connected together and that in order to give the glue a chance to work, they had to hold their two pieces together and count up to 60. (Even though technically the parts should be given a lot longer to set, this was a pretty effective way get the planes assembled quickly).
At that point, I let the kids go at it.
Even with Teacher Dee and an assistant teacher's help, I still had a hand full with the 20 children that were building.
There were numerous problems to overcome and additional steps to explain, along with quite a few backward assembled parts to correct.
However, the allocated two hours flew by quickly, with Messerschmitts rapidly taking shape under the guidance of their young creators.
They finished off their building with the application of the white glue to the canopies, followed by positioning them in place.
In addition to the models and modeling supplies, I also brought with me acrylic paint and paintbrushes. However, I wasnít sure if the kids would be able to paint their models during our session.
As it turned out, Teacher Dee had decided to hold onto the paint and let the children paint their planes the following day.
I had also brought two completed Me-BF109's to show to the kids. One was painted a deep blue color, with the other being copper in color. The kids really got a kick out of seeing them.
This was a very enjoyable experience for me. I always get a blast out of sharing model building with others. It is especially rewarding sharing modeling with young, new modelers.
One reason I get such a kick out of conducting these sessions is because they help me get back to some modeling basics myself. It's nice to just build a kit sometimes and not have to worry about filling in those unseemly seams, or getting the correct color or markings down.
Seeing the enjoyment the children get from their building is another reason for the reeaaaaal good feeling that I get. The excitement in their faces and the very infectious nature of their enthusiasm are added rewards.
In closing here, I urge you all to share this hobby of ours with some young folks. They donít have to be a class full of kids. There may be only a few nieces, nephews, cousins or children of friends who might be interested.
With the way the hobby industry has been going over the past couple of years, getting some new blood into the hobby can only help the situation.
Build a kit with a kid or two and help spread the fun.
You'll be glad you did.
Copyright © 2010 by Anthony I. Wootson. No material may be reproduced without permission. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.