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The Boy Who Harnassed The Wind: Growth Mindset at its Best

Today’s guest blog post is by my friend Marion Piersol-Miller. She is a TPT Author and has recently retired from teaching 6th and 7th grade. Marion never thought she would become a teacher, but she taught for 20 years and now makes fantastic resources for English Language Arts and other things. She makes wonderful novel study guides and I asked her to share some thoughts on the book, The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind   The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind 

Cover of the book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

This book is growth mindset at its best, with themes like:

  • Failure means you’re learning
  • Grit pushes you forward
  • Desperation generates creativity
  • Reduce, recycle, reuse
  • Where there’s a will, there’s a way

The book?  The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.
Growing up in Malawi
Growing up in Masitala, on the outskirts of Wimbe, Malawi, William lived in a small village with his parents and six sisters, surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Like most families in Malawi, his father was a farmer, growing maize.

When drought hit his country when William was thirteen, Malawi began to starve.  William and his family cut their meals from three a day to two, and then to one.  Without crops to sell, there was no money to send him to school, so he had to stop going.

Fortunately, there was a small library in Wimbe, and William read every book he could get his hands on.  Two, in particular, captivated him: Explaining Physics and Integrated Science.  Written in English, he had to translate words to make sense of what he was reading.  What he read helped him form an idea.  He would build a windmill.

Being made fun of
Are you familiar with the story of Noah’s Ark and how all his neighbors made fun of him for building a huge ship in the middle of his land?  That was William.  Even his parents weren’t sure about what he was doing.  Certainly, the neighbors didn’t, and many of them found ways to poke fun at his invention.  Until it worked.

William would go to the scrapyard and root around, finding bits and pieces that he could cobble together to make, first a small windmill that provided electricity for his radio, then for lights for his house, and ultimately, to pump water out of the well.

Electric Wind
By the time that happened, neighbors were aware that something big was happening, and the media had caught on to this boy who was creating “electric wind.”

William describes in loving detail, all of the ways he tried to make things work, and students will get lessons on batteries, magnets, and other devices that are important for making and storing electricity.  I’ll be honest. I skimmed over some of those parts, but I imagine students who are into science, and hands-on tinkering, may find themselves eager to try out some of his ideas.

William’s desire to give back to his community is commendable, and to date, he has helped his family and neighbors achieve schooling they wouldn’t have been able to afford.

The young adult version is good for students from 6th grade and up.
Ways to Use it in Your Classroom

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind
  • Are you looking for a study guide to help your students read this book?  Click on the cover to take a closer look.  The study guide lets students develop the background information they need about Malawi and windmills to deepen their comprehension.  
  • Use the book as a whole-class read-aloud.  Or break your students up into smaller groups/lit circles, using the study guide to help monitor their understanding.
  • Let students read it individually or with a partner
  • There are hands-on extension projects at the end of the study guide that students can use to show their understanding
  • Create a STEM challenge using electricty
  • Teach students to think about Criteria and Constraints in STEM Engineering Projects.

You can read more from Marion over on her blog Mentoring in the Middle

Welcome to my blog!
Marion Piersol-Miller

Start Here

I am so impressed with this unit which manages to be distance learning and hands-on at the same time.  Really well thought out and engaging activities that allow students to practice each of the eight Science and Engineering Practices.  Really no prep for me!

 
Science and Engineering Practices Distance Education Unit

Tina S

Teaching Science with Lynda R. Williams
5
2016-05-03T18:05:39-06:00

Tina S

I am so impressed with this unit which manages to be distance learning and hands-on at the same time.  Really well thought out and engaging activities that allow students to practice each of the eight Science and Engineering Practices.  Really no prep for me!   Science and Engineering Practices Distance Education Unit
The elephant article was excellent but I also thought the lab on dissecting a flower was broken down so easily, even telling me where to get inexpensive flowers!  This resource helped me teach this challenging standard in an engaging way.  Worth every penny!

 
Structure and Function NGSS 4-LS1-1 and 4-LS1-2

Richard S

Teaching Science with Lynda R. Williams
5
2016-05-03T18:07:52-06:00

Richard S

The elephant article was excellent but I also thought the lab on dissecting a flower was broken down so easily, even telling me where to get inexpensive flowers!  This resource helped me teach this challenging standard in an engaging way.  Worth every penny!   Structure and Function NGSS 4-LS1-1 and 4-LS1-2
As always, Lynda provides perfect alignment with the standards.

 
Age of the Earth and Geologic Time Scale NGSS MS ESS1-4

Sharon M

Teaching Science with Lynda R. Williams
5
2016-05-03T18:24:44-06:00

Sharon M

As always, Lynda provides perfect alignment with the standards.   Age of the Earth and Geologic Time Scale NGSS MS ESS1-4
Thank you so much for creating this resource! It is such a fun and engaging activity for my students, especially during distance learning.

 
Honey Bee Digital Escape Distance Learning

Expedition Fourth

Teaching Science with Lynda R. Williams
2020-11-03T20:44:55-07:00

Expedition Fourth

Thank you so much for creating this resource! It is such a fun and engaging activity for my students, especially during distance learning.   Honey Bee Digital Escape Distance Learning
My students loved this unit. I was able to present different elements of it throughout the month. It is hard to find interesting non-fictional, age-appropriate text for my students that they will enjoy. This was a great unit that aligned well for my students who have very different goals within the same group.

 
Compare and Contrast Two Texts on Reindeer

Heidi J

Teaching Science with Lynda R. Williams
2020-11-03T20:45:49-07:00

Heidi J

My students loved this unit. I was able to present different elements of it throughout the month. It is hard to find interesting non-fictional, age-appropriate text for my students that they will enjoy. This was a great unit that aligned well for my students who have very different goals within the same group.   Compare and Contrast Two Texts on Reindeer
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Teaching Science with Lynda R. Williams