A passionate educator brings the world into the classroom.

A really passionate educator finds a way to bring the world to the whole community.

Penn State Social Studies Professor Jessica B. Schocker, Ph.D, pictured at right, did just that this spring when she introduced Berks County to Toothpick World at the Reading Public Museum.

Professor Jessica Schocker at the opening of Toothpick World

Toothpick World is the brainchild of toothpick-engineer and reluctant-artist Stan Munro, pictured below. Mr. Munro built a city using toothpicks and Elmer’s glue, set expertly to a scale of 1:164.

The display stands nineteen feet tall, covers an area of 672 feet and showcases some of the most iconic buildings in the world, including the Sears Tower, the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Vatican in Rome, and the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas.

Stan Munro, Toothpick EngineerThis fall, with help from a grant from the Public Education Foundation Fund at Berks County Community Foundation, students from local districts will see the exhibit firsthand with their student teachers. Their math, social studies, and engineering lessons will be brought to life through Munro’s careful toothpick craftsmanship.

A Toothpick Journey

Late last year, Dr. Schocker approached the Community Foundation and several other area philanthropies with an idea that on the surface seemed fraught with obstacles.

She’d visited the Toothpick World exhibit in New York City and was instantly drawn to its potential as an educational tool for students. She wrote and presented a paper where she described how Toothpick World could teach students about math, social studies, science, and art.

All she had to do to make it happen was raise more than $45,000, get the local museum to agree to house the exhibit, get her university to sign off on using a detailed, project-specific curriculum with her student teachers, convince the schools where her student teachers are placed this fall to use the curriculum in their classrooms and ultimately schedule field trips to the museum so the students could see Toothpick World in person.

Piece of cake, right?Toothpick World Sculpture

The good thing was that Dr. Schocker’s passion for the project was contagious. With support from several funds at Penn State Berks and local funding from the Wyomissing Foundation, she raised the needed funds and, in early June, Toothpick World opened at the Reading Public Museum.

For our part, the Community Foundation approved a grant from its Public Education Innovation Fund to cover the cost to transport the students from their schools to the museum for the field trip.

Of course, there’s no need to wait for a field trip to visit the exhibit and perhaps get inspired to try your hand at toothpick construction. The exhibit continues through December 31, 2012.

Heidi Williamson
Vice President for Grantmaking and Communication

CAPTIONS:

1. Professor Jessica Schocker from Penn State Berks raised more than $45,000 to bring Toothpick World to the Reading Public Museum so her student teachers could use the exhibit as a learning laboratory this fall.

2. Stan Munro, a self-proclaimed toothpick engineer, builds models of famous buildings to scale using glue and toothpicks.

3. One of Munro’s many creations on display at the Reading Public Museum.