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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mini Lesson Plans

Models and miniatures are a fantastic hobby and have lots of homeschooling possibilities. Have your kids ever built a diorama, visited a model railroad exhibit, or decorated a doll's house? Many little people, and big people, are fascinated by tiny stuff. I know I certainly am. When I received a visit from Randall, who loves to write about model trains, for yesterday's Wordless Wednesday, I began to think of some of the possibilities. I've wandered the web so you don't have to, unless you insist of course!

Over on the left is The Usborne Book of Making Models. If you are interested in shopping for items related to models and model making, books, materials, etc, I've gathered these links together at the end. Read on for mini lesson plan ideas and for more details on this and other Usborne model books...

Model trains are such a favorite thing to have under the Christmas tree. Little boys who love Thomas the Tank Engine might just develop a love for model trains and railroads. There are some good articles on toy trains for children, including articles on Electric Train Scales for Children (about choosing the size of trains) and Electric Train Do's and Don'ts for Parents at For teens and adults try the National Model Railroad Association Introduction to Model Railroading. If you need to be inspired by visuals, take a look at the small layout scrapbook for lots and lots of layout plans and photos. I was particularly intrigued by the shoebox layouts.

Working with scale trains is a great exercise in math, design, art and electricity. You'll be planning track layouts, costing a variety of designs, learning electrical safety, and building scenery. For your scenery The Usborne Book of Making Models, pictured above, contains ideas and step by step instructions for making a tunnel, as well as bushes, shrubs, trees and paths.

I've always enjoyed visiting model railroads. It took a good bit of searching to find a website that lists places to visit - check out, their list looks to be comprehensive and current... unless of course you know different! I'm lucky enough to live close to a very absorbing little model railroad store. At the Show Me Railroad Company they make their own limited edition HO scale rolling stock right in the store. It's a kind of mini rail wonderland with large layouts in several scales, and lots of tiny items to explore. If you don't have a miniature railroad museum, like the Twin City Model Railroad Museum, or the San Diego Model Railroad Museum nearby, visiting a store or a model railroad club could be the next best thing.

If you want the tradition of a train under the tree, it's worth spending some time reading to make sure you choose something suitable. Alternatively, if you're not sure you have an enthusiast, do what I did. Choose the least expensive little battery-operated train set you can find and assume it will get broken. Guess what - we've had our little plastic Santa train set for probably 9 years now and it's still as good as new! It was the right choice for us; neither of my kids has developed an enthusiasm for model railroads, at least not yet anyway.

Writing about mini lesson plans is almost as fascinating as doing them. I have a lot more to say but I'm out of both time and brain juice, so for now I'll say, "to be continued"... I will update later with links for those interested in shopping and continue in a separate article for mini lesson plans with other kinds of models beyond trains.

Places to shop for model trains and related items:
What do you say? Do you have a train under your tree, a favorite train-related resource, or a train story to tell?
Brought to you in association with with Christmas train choices and plenty of Brio items.


Janet said...

Both mine love their Thomas train set. Part of their Christmas present this year are 2 battery-operated engines. We hesitated because I'm just tired of everything battery-operated, but it will be a good test to see if they would like a model railroad. I've seen a couple for around the tree, but I'm pretty sure the kids aren't old enough for that. And then there is the problem of the cats . . .
But I'm intrigued with the idea of making some models to go with their Thomas stuff.

Alison said...

Janet, I hope The Queen and DeBoy love the battery operated trains you got for them. Personally I was never that intrigued by Brio - I always thought that a powered train or two would make it much more fun. My kids always played with it in toy stores, but they never asked to have one. Our cats have never bothered the little train we put under our tree, but then we did not have them as kittens so maybe that makes a difference if yours are young.

Have fun with the Thomas stuff, I know it is very popular and I'm sure I'll be writing about trains again :-)

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