THE SYSTEM PART OF The Parke System                                  

I did not intend to name The Parke System after myself.   I am proud of the Parke name, but I did not want my name on the system.  Teachers who used the system came up with the name and said it should be used because using the name said here is someone trying to help me.  That is true so the name is I agreed.

Teachers kept emphasizing system should be used because the system is a very important part of the program.  There is more to it than just projects, or materials and processes.  When a teacher sees how much a student learns in such a short time they become so interested in that part it is difficult to get them to see the principles that make the system so successful.  Most of those principles are applicable to any course.

Most people associate The Parke System with materials and processes, but there is more than that.  Lines and Views is a drafting program.  Basically drafting is a series of "lines," the meaning of those lines, "views" and the relationship between those views.

The Research and Development Unit gives the students and opportunity to actually research a problem, design, build and test their solution.  The activity is inexpensive to build and test.  Modifications and retesting are easy to do and there is competition.

There is a unit on engines, where the student learns about the principles of the combustion engine.  Most of the activity is hands on.  This unit is not available at this time.

Using the Electron is a very effective 8 week course in electricity and electronics.  Unfortunately I have not had time to make it available either.  One of the reasons it is so effective is the system of teaching.


This is so elementary it should not even need to be stated, but many do not ask the question.  Several years ago a leader in the field was enthused about a project because; it was made of sheetmetal, was low cost and the student would like it.   The students were given two strips of sheetmetal.  They drilled two holes in one piece, bent the pieces to shape by hand, using no tools, and the pieces were spot welded together.  A machine screw and nut were added.  That was all!   I wanted to scream, "But what did it teach?"   No wonder Industrial Arts had a bad reputation.


This should be a given, but unfortunately other things, such as management, often comes first.   In one state, they must have 10 day modules, students must work in pairs, students are assigned to a certain area of the room, there must be a pretest and post test and they are not to make a mess on carpet.  None of these have anything to do with what the student learns, or how efficiently they learn.  It is all management.

Management is important, in fact it is an important part of The Parke System, but what the student learns comes first and management is based upon the best way of achieving that goal, not what is easiest for the teacher.  The management system in The Parke System does make it easier for the teacher than in most other systems.

In many programs what the teacher likes determines what is taught.  It used to be mostly woods, now it seems to be computers.  There are certain areas I do not enjoy, but what I like is not the determining factor.  Teach what should be taught, not what we like.


Many teachers have told me the NUMBER ONE advantage of The Parke System is it gives the student a reason to read!   For more information on reading go to:   READING ADVANTAGES 


A sales rep said that to make The Parke System more marketable computers were needed.  Computers are great tools; I use them all the time.  This is being written and edited using a computer, but to add it just to sell is not putting what the student learns first.

When The Parke System was first started, getting the information to the student through audio-visual seemed the best way to go.  Lack of money prevented that so manuals were used.  Line drawings rather that photographs were used to save money.  Experience has shown manuals and line drawings are usually the most effective way to go.  If money was no object and I could put everything on computers I do not think it would be wise.  Learning to read and follow instructions is too important.

I do think there is a place for computers and films.  I would like to see a reference program where the student could see industry using the materials and processes they experienced in class.  Computer programs, or films, could do this very effectively.

I also have an idea how a computer system could be effectively used as a management system.  It could even automatically report to parents and order materials.


I do no look at the activities used in the materials and processes part of The Parke System as projects.  The students are processing materials that end up being projects.  This may sound nit-picking, but the difference is extremely important.  If projects were the objective, what and how the students do things would be done a lot differently.  Having a take home product is simply an excellent motivation.  What the student learns is the criteria for what you have them do.

The term projects came into disfavor years ago.  Having a student make something in a shop, lab, or whatever you call it, and take it home is still a project as far as I am concerned.  Calling it a project may not be good marketing practice, but that is what is.

Projects and Industrial Arts had a bad reputation and in many cases it was an earned reputation.  We were saying we were teaching industry, when in fact what and how we had the students do the work had very little relation to industry.  What they were doing was not necessarily wrong, it was just not industry.  It was often more home hobby shop.

Properly designed take-home projects are excellent motivators.  Poorly designed projects bore the student and waste the student’s time.  I saw a cartoon showing two young boys.  One was holding something that looked like a three-legged stool, but with one leg pointing up and two legs pointing down.  The boy holding the object said, "Look what I made in shop!"  The other asked what it was?  The response was, I don't know, but mom said it was what she always wanted.  Humorous, but unfortunately and too frequently, not far from the truth.


I like to use the term “educationally efficient.”  Whatever we have the student do must be done in a manner where the students learn as much as possible, in as short a period of time as possible.


This is a major problem.  We have more to teach than there is time.  I compared it to my salary, "there was too much month at the end of the money."  Whatever the amount of time you have there will never be enough time to cover all of the desired material.  For this reason, it is very important to determine what is most important and teach that.

A friend in industry said we should spend time teaching what they were doing in his business.  He was right, but the question is, if we added that, what do we take out of our present course?  Is what they are doing more important than what we are already teaching?  It is all a matter of priority and the best use of the student's time.

We must use the student's time wisely.  Saving a few minutes here and there adds up and is very important.  Suppose a class period is 50 minutes a day, 5 days a week.  If, though proper planning and having the student use proper methods you can save the student 10 minutes a day, in effect you will be adding one full class period a week.  That is substantial amount of time.

There are many ways this can be done.  Simply rearranging order of the steps of procedure in one unit saved the student one full period.  Redesigned the tooling in another unit saved the student another full period.  A lot of time can be saved, but it takes a lot of experience on the part of the developer, based upon observing the students and it requires a lot of time and work.  Typically a well developed project takes years of testing and refinement and it still could be improved.

One method of achieving educational efficiency is to allow each student determine the length of time they spend on each unit.  Having each unit the same length for the all students may appear to be good management, but that is fitting the student into a schedule.  What the student learns comes second.

Giving a student an allotted amount of time to finish a unit is asking for trouble.  If there is too much time allowed, it is a waste of the student's time.  If students are causing problems you can almost bet they are bored.

I have had teachers using other systems complain about the problem of "sabotage" by their students.  My unsaid thought was, "No wonder, the system you are using is one of the causes of the problem."  I am sure some schools using The Parke System have problems, partly because every school teaches it in different ways, but from the feedback I have had, the problems are fewer than in other programs.

Not only does allowing each student to work at their own rate encourage the faster students to cover more material, it allows the slower student to keep working without so much pressure.  If there is not enough time the student becomes frustrated.

I know enrichment activities are used to allow for differences in students ability, but is that wise use of the student's time?  There is no way they can cover everything we would like for them to cover, so the question is, is the enrichment activity better than some other activity?  Consider The Parke System toolbox.  It takes the average students 9 hours to complete and there are specific reasons for doing the activity.  If an above average student were to complete it in 6 days, it seems better to have them start on to another unit.  For example, I think it would it be better to make the screwdriver and experience drop forging, using temperature indicating materials, hardening tool steel, tempering tool steel, testing for cracks, glass bead blasting, casting water extended polyester resin, several other hands on processes and have a take home product.  That would be educationally efficient and definitely much more motivating.

One of my college classes was History of Architecture.  I had considered being an architect and loved the course.  The teacher had a huge reading assignment.  I started reading with enthusiasm, until I found I could get an A in the class and not even read the text, let alone the reading assignments.  Other things just seemed to take over and I did just what was required.  Most students will do just what is required, in the amount of time allotted and no more.

Having each student determine the length of time spent on a unit may see like an invitation to disaster, but I found just the opposite.  The increase in motivation is significant.   When the system was field tested an unsigned questionnaire was filled out by the teacher’s field testing the system.  One of the questions was about discipline.  I was favorably shocked to see their comments.  Most reported a dramatic decrease in discipline problems.  In retrospect, that should not have been a surprise, bored students cause problems, motivated students do not and The Parke System really motivates the students.

Years ago I built roads in Missouri.  I enjoyed the work, but the two most exciting times for each road were when we started moving dirt and when we loaded the last machine on the truck and left.  The same is true with a project.  The closer the start time to the finish time the better and the more motivated the students will be.  The sooner they finish, the sooner they can start on another unit.  I have not always reached my goal, but I had a goal of no project taking more than 5 hours of lab time to complete.

Having the starting and finishing times close together is cumulative, the more units they finish in a given course, the more successes they have and the more motivated they are.

Junior high students have a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, but only for about 15 minutes.  The same is true of older students, but perhaps interest lasts a little longer.  We need to take advantage of that enthusiasm by designing each activity to last a short period of time.  For instance, on the candle holder, a blanking die is used to blank out copper and aluminum circles, hydroform and metal spin one part, explosion form another, punch holes, plus more.  All of these different processes are usually done in 45 minutes.  That is being educationally efficient and keeps the motivation high.  Several years ago an engineer saw what the students were learning as they went through The Parke System and said it beat his 4 years of sanding in high school.  I am sure he did more than sand, but obviously too much time was spent sanding.


In 1798 Eli Whitney was given a contract from the US government to produce 10,000 muskets within 2 years.  That was a huge task because making a musket required a skilled craftsman and each took a lot of time.  Eli Whitney revolutionized the process.  One thing he did was to produce interchangeable parts.  This had been done else-where on a limited basis, but was not a well known concept at the time.

Another very important thing he did was to develop specialized tooling which allowed a relatively unskilled person to produce uniform parts for the musket.  The principles Eli Whitney used has been used extensively in The Parke System.  More than 100 special tools have been developed specifically for The Parke System to enable an unskilled student to experience many industrial type processes and end up with a quality finished product.  Success is built in through use of those tools and industrial methods.

Not only do those specialized tools give students success, it allows them to do the work faster.  The faster they can do something, the more experiences they can have.  The use of these specialized tools is one of the reasons other programs are not as educationally efficient as The Parke System.


Avoiding duplications allows the student to cover much more material.  This sounds simple and with two, or three units it is not much of a problem.  Since there are more than 20 different units in the materials and processes part of The Parke System it becomes very difficult, but even so, duplication has been kept at a minimum.

Some of the duplications in The Parke System are on purpose.  Many schools do not have time to cover all of the system and do not make he game set.  The game set contains certain desirable experiences.  The Note Tray Unit and the Tape Dispenser were developed to provide some of those experiences.


To have a group demonstration, the teacher has to set up the demonstration, get everyone together in one place and then keep everyone's attention.  But that is not the real problem.  What normally happens when the student is ready to do the work a few days later?  Most of the time the teacher has to show them again.  Since that is the case, why not eliminate the group demonstration and show them when they are ready to perform the task?

Frankly, I found teaching by group demonstrations usually a waste of time.  The steps in The Parke System manuals have the student set every-thing up, ready to do the work and then tells them to have the teacher show them how.  The demonstrations are one-on-one when the student is ready to do the task.  It usually takes only a few minutes of the teacher's time.  No set up time is needed by the teacher.  The student has to set it up anyway as part of what they are doing, so no time is lost.

Having the teacher there when the student is ready to do the work is much safer than group demonstrations.  Before going to one-on-one demonstrations I was always worrying about someone getting injured.  It can still happen, but the chances are less.  To me this was extremely important and a major plus for the system.

Some group demonstrations are recommended the first part of the course.  Simple things such as changing a drill bit in the drill press.  I did this as part of an introductory tour of the lab.

Eliminating group demonstrations gives the students more “hands on” time.


This should be a very important principle of any program.  And do not teach more than is needed at a time.  When I was taught drafting one of the first things we had to learn was the alphabet of lines.  Why?  If the course is18 weeks long and they do not use cutting plane lines until the 15th week, why teach cutting plane lines the first week of class?  A better approach is to introduce the different lines when the student is going to use the line.  This very simple principle makes it easier for the student to remember.

Another example of this principle is teaching wood identification.  When I first stated teaching I gave the students a list of woods they were to be able to identify by a certain date.  On that date they were tested on how well they could identify those woods.  In the system when they are working on the checkers they are told to get a piece of walnut and a piece of hard maple.  They cut the stock to length, drill holes in it, cut to shape, process it in 3 stages of finishing and put inserts in the finished checkers.  By the time they have completed the unit, they have no problem identifying those two woods.  They use other woods and by the time they have finished the course they have learned to identify the same woods.  This is a much more effective method than just spending time learning to identify woods. 


The Parke System can be taught using almost any method.  Most of the units stand alone and can be used with other programs.  The most effective method of teaching the system I found was to give the students a list of activities from which they could choose.  Each completed activity is given a point value and the accumulative points needed to achieve each grade.  They know from the beginning what they have to do to achieve a desired grade.  And at any time in the course they know were they are in achieving that grade.

After introducing the course they are told to go to work.  No assignments.  No pairs.  It is up to each student.  They can work on anything they wish.  My students usually had several different units in progress.  This sounds confusing and when visiting a class it may seem to be mass confusion, but in reality it is very effective.  It forces the student to be responsible for their own actions.  If the work does not get finished there have no one to blame, but their self.


It has been said, "85% of the people who get fired in industry get fired because they cannot get along with their fellow workers."  I don't question that, but simply assigning students to work in pairs does not teach teamwork.  If assigning students work in pairs teaches teamwork, why doesn't it work later when they are in industry?  There are ways of teaching teamwork and it should be taught, but there is a lot more to it then simply assigning them to work together.

From my personal experience in most team assignments a few do the work and the others go along for a free, or at least a partially free, ride.

In my unscientific opinion, one of the main reasons people do not get along in groups is because of the lack of personal responsibility.  They want someone else to do the work for them.  Having each student responsible for their own work teaches individual responsibility and I believe will help them in teamwork.  The Parke System teaches personal responsibility.

When working with the younger kids I usually find the more I have working together the less there is done.  Give me one kid for a day and I will get what one kid can do in a day.  Give me two kids for a day and I will get what half of what a kid can do in a day. Give me three, or more, and forget the whole thing.  This is not always the case, but most of the time.


The method of letting each student work on their own, at their own rate, reduces the amount of tooling needed.  For example, it takes about 5 hours to complete the tape dispenser unit.  One of the tools is a shear, which is used to cut a serrated edge on a piece of tinplate.  In a course using 5 day modules that shear would be used only one time every 5 days.  Using The Parke System method of teaching the shear can be used several times each day.  Adding more students to the class does not require buying a full module for each student added.


How the steps in the manuals are written is extremely important.  Each step must be short and specific.

Several years ago a school copied my checkerboard.  At that time we were cutting up plastic floor tiles to make the squares for the board, the other school cut the squares from sheets of plastic.  That was the only difference in construction.  But there was a big difference in the steps of procedure.  They had a picture and 11 steps, my manual had 57 steps and many line drawings. Their steps told the student "what to do," while mine told them "how."  That is a major difference.

The steps in The Parke System manuals are very detailed.  Several years ago one of my student teachers was helping a student.  I saw him look at the manual and laughed.  Shortly thereafter, I asked what I had done wrong in the steps.  He said, "Nothing."  I asked why he laughed after reading the steps, he said "Because the steps told the student to sit down."  My reply was, the student needed to sit down for the next step.  That is detail.

Writing detailed steps requires writing the steps and observing many students using those steps.  This has to be done over, and over, and over, many, many times. 

Changing just one word can be important, for example I was surprised at how many students did not know what “obtain” means.  I had to change to the word “get.”  Thing like this can only be found by testing and retesting and it takes a lot of time.

The last time I checked, the reading level for the manuals was grade 6 or lower.