The things that contributed most to my success in CAD design are what I learned in 10th grade geometry and 11th grade trig. After that, CAD becomes a vehicle for exploiting this knowledge. Hopefully, learning CAD so young will give your children the impression that these subjects are important, and not lead them to believe that software is a substitute for knowledge.
That said, there's lots of stuff out there. Start simple, and go from there.
If possible, go through full projects. Don't just have them make bunches of CAD models. Teach them to originate ideas, flesh them out, and, if possible, build them.
Make it into a magic show, Colleen. In SolidWorks you are a magician that can create things out of nothing, navigate through time, destroy and repair, change his/her mind at any time, play with LEGO bricks in the assembly environment and create realistic renderings with a click of a mouse.
This is what I am demonstrating when I introduce SolidWorks to kids young or old.
When I was a teaching assistant at a university teaching CAD I alwasy tried to emphasize the thought process of "how would you make this?" If you ask them to think of making a part and the process they would envision (start with a block and remove here, or turn a cylinder and remove this, is it an assembly or weldment). Also let them see that just because you can draw something doesn't mean you can make it (3D printers are making this less true).
If you help them develop the design thought process then learning to use the tool will be easy. Don't let them confuse knowing how to manipulate Solidworks with knowing how to design. Just like a calculator, it is just a faster way of crunching numbers on paper, so if you don't understand how to do it manually the tool may complicate your life instead of making it easier.
I would start with an object around the house or something that has been discussed at the dinner table - rearranging furniture in the living room, building a new laptop stand, redesigning the legs on a broken folding table. Just make sure you start small enough that they see results before it looks like too much effort. If they are destined to be designers or engineers their natural curiosity and creativity will take over and they will quickly become their own motivation.
Colleen, my experience has been getting kids excited about CAD is a lot easier than getting adults. I've had a couple of experiences where I've showed SolidWorks to grade-school kids, and unlike adults, they're willing to discover the software without slaving it to a specific task. When you show a kid how a cone, a cylinder and a some fins makes a rocket, they start drawing rockets and changing them and asking questions and bragging on the stuff they make. When you show that to an engineer, he's going to be like, "OK, but how do I draw an FAA approved airfoil? and where can I get AN spec fasteners and how do I tie this into configuratino management?"
It's immensely rewarding to watch how fast a kid can learn right in front of you. I recommend starting with basic found objects. Magic markers, coffee cups. My boss' son modelled my eyeglass case. Once they see how you can think of most things in terms of features, they have a tendency to just run with it. The important thing is to get it into their hands and start them off really simple.
There might be some special courseware for students, but I'd say that there's nothing in the adult cirriculum or tutorials that they can't handle at that age.
And while I agree that Geometry and trig did a lot to inform my CAD carreer, I think if I'd had SolidWorks, when I was in 9th grade and I could have tested and observed geometric principles expressed as constraints, I would have learned more and enjoyed learning more.
There is so much cool stuff in SolidWorks that you should have no problem capturing their imagination! And they'll probably end up teaching you a thing or two . There's a useful link at the bottom of this message which should help you out.
I have so much fun with Solidworks that I made a rap video about it. The lyrics (with no cursing!) include images and videos to show them some of the cool stuff you can do in SolidWorks, and also some useful, safe websites for young people to get involved in the SW user community and learn what other like-minded people are doing and how they do it in SolidWorks. That might be a fun place to start... Enjoy!
The SolidWorks Rap:
After that, here's a useful 'Getting Started with SolidWorks' page with 5 comprehensive learning modules and in-depth video tutorials to guide them through SolidWorks software and the engineering design process".
Also, within SolidWorks, if you go to the Help Menu, there's an item called 'Introducing SolidWorks (pdf)', which explains everything from design concepts, SolidWorks terminology, and includes a step by step lesson & practice exercises.
Good luck... you won't need it!
Maybe attach your solidworks to xbox or a ps3!
Find something the teen wants to design, e.g., a skateboard, a bike, castle, train, machine gun... Then sit down and spoon feed him the moves he needs to design it. To often drum teachers want to start with rudiments and drills. Let kids start by wailing on the tom toms.
When I was teaching ProE in high school my objective was to give them a head start in getting employment.
I showed them how to model a cottage wall frame, then build it from their drawing in the woodwork shop.
Only those who saw value in employment completed the task.