Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Research: Think Outside the Box

"The way to do research is to attack the facts at the point of greatest astonishment." — Celia Green

I love researching. However, projects I intensely dislike are those “parental projects” assigned by teachers to children who cannot complete them without a parent’s help. In second grade my son, Kristoffer, was assigned one of those dreaded “parental projects”—a transportation report.

As a single parent, it was just one more ball to add to all the balls I was trying to keep in the air. To add to my frustration, my son chose a sports car unfamiliar to me—Lamborghini—the Diablo.

I figured out it was an Italian car. Seven-year-old Kristoffer prepared the questions that I faxed to Italy to the President of Lamborghini—after figuring out how to dial 011 plus the number. Lamborghini replied and informed us that Lee Iacocca now owned Lamborghini.

I called Iacocca’s office and was given his fax number. I faxed Kristoffer’s questions to Iacocca. A Vice President replied via Federal-Express. Not only did he answer all Kristoffer’s questions, but he included some pictures that were collector’s items to include in the report.

Next, I called Lamborghini of Beverly Hills to set up an interview with the manager. In our 1978 beat-up Volvo named “Old Betsy,” I drove Kristoffer to Beverly Hills. Kristoffer interviewed the manager who also gave him a tour that ended with Kristoffer purchasing pictures and a "Lamborghini Parking Only" sign.

Kristoffer wrote his report and made his poster. “WE” got an A-, which disappointed me. In my opinion, the teacher missed the importance of what Kristoffer learned about creative research and the writing process.

Research is an experience, not just about reading and writing neatly written words on the page. No matter the project, think outside the box and make it fun.

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