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Building Big:

Educational Outreach Elements


Pre-Broadcast Brochure
The brochure, aimed at an education audience, outlined the full scope of the project and contained a sample activity that illustrated the type of activities to be found in the guide. One hundred twenty-nine thousand brochures were distributed through mailings to ASCE members (American Society of Civil Engineers), libraries, middle school science and technology teachers, as well as through a booth at the National Science Teachers Association Conference.

Building Big Activity Guide
View online activity guide

Activity Guide
This 40-page guide was written for teachers, informal educators in after-school programs and museums, and engineers (see Partners). It included hands-on activities; engineering principles and science concepts; pathways through the curriculum linking activities, video, and Web components, depending on how much time the user wanted to spend; viewing strategies for breaking up the one-hour programs; and resources. The promotional poster, featuring artwork from David Macaulay, was also bound into the guide. Fifty-nine thousand were distributed through orders generated by the brochure and Web site (20,000), PTV stations (12,000), "model communities" (7,500); conferences and miscellaneous educational outreach activities (12,500).


The Building Big Web site features the following elements:

Building Big Web site
View Building Big Web site

Building Challenges
View Building Challenges


Building Big video cover
View video cover

Building Small
These five short videos, available at the end of the home video as well as packaged with Thinking Big for use by formal and informal educators, feature Kenny and Caroline from Zoom presenting hands-on activities to give kids a feel for forces at work in different structures.

Thinking Big
This 17-minute video explores how engineers design and build a large structure such as a skyscraper. Throughout the video, a group of middle school students share their thoughts about tall buildings and the design process.

Person-to-Person Activities

Activity Hours
These were one-time experiences lasting anywhere from 60 minutes to two hours. Volunteer engineers (see Partners) visited a classroom or after-school program, where they introduced young people to fun hands-on activities from the Building Big Activity Guide and talked about their work. Five hundred sixty-five Activity Hours involving more than 6,000 youth and 150 engineers were held in 10 model communities.

Local Wonders
Over the course of two or three meetings, engineers teamed up with youth to explore an interesting local structure selected by the children. After investigating how the structure worked, why it was built, and what it meant to the community, the group wrote up their "Local Wonder" reports.

These one-day engineering fairs facilitated by local engineers involved children and their families in simple hands-on activities to introduce them to big structures and how they work.

Model Communities
Ten model communities involving local coalitions of PTV stations, professional engineers and architects, and youth-serving groups received a $13,000 mini-grant to support their project. A training for station representatives was held at that year's PTOA (Public Television Outreach Alliance). Requirements for model communities, concretely spelled out, were to:

  • Team up with local branches of Building Big's national partners
  • Organize a minimum of 10 activity hours, five local wonders, one build-a-thon, and other opportunities to share the project and its resources
  • Reach a minimum of 2,000 participants through these efforts

Next > Outcomes

In this section:

    Auschwitz: Inside the
    Nazi State

    Building Big

        Goals & Audience

>      Educational
        Outreach Elements


        Challenges &
        Lessons Learned

    Culture Shock



    In Search of Shakespeare

    Lewis & Clark:
    The Journey of the
    Corps of Discovery

    My Journey Home

    The New Americans

    Poetic License


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