Creating a Crash Course Set

Jeremy Marx

One of my favorite activities throughout the year is having students create their own Crash Course videos — with the addition of some fake mustaches — for the appropriately named 'Stache Course project. This year, we stepped it up a bit with an easy-to-make set that increased the quality of the videos.

Crash Course set

For each set, we used two 4'x8' foam insulation boards that are connected at the seam with duct tape. The boards are available at any of the big-box hardware stores. I painted the foam boards with three coats of white ceiling paint. Why ceiling paint? Because I had a spare can laying around. Fortunately, light doesn't reflect much on ceiling paint, which is perfect for the background in our videos. I was able to paint four foam boards with one can. We later duct taped the edges of the foam boards as well so that it holds up over the years.

Next, we got some cheap lavalier mics from Amazon. We bought two different mics in the $15 range and couldn't tell the difference between them. The audio won't be perfect, but it'll do. We made sure to get microphones that will connect to an iPad, since we used iMovie to edit the videos. The other consideration is the cable length. Ours were 59" and anything shorter would have been difficult to use. While some groups recorded their videos, other groups worked on other aspects of the project (writing their scripts, practicing, editing the videos). Thus, there will always be some background noise, making the microphones necessary.

The large Blue Yeti microphone in the pictures is a USB mic that doesn't connect to the iPads, so it's just a prop here.

Other props we used include the globe, rolling chairs, shock pens (or regular pens and some great acting skills), and white boards. Next year, we'd like to add a section of chalkboard paint onto the background panels as well.

Here's the approximate cost breakdown for two sets:

4 foam boards - $65
1 gal ceiling paint + roller - $20
Duct tape - $5
2 lavalier mics - $30
Total - $120

We'll be able to store the foam board panels and re-use them year after year. Meanwhile, the mics will surely be used for other activities as well. We also have plans to paint the backs of the panels green, to create a green screen for other projects. 

If you have any DIY projects in your classroom that can be easily replicated, please share them with me and we'll get it added to the site.