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Building Imaginations at Robert Smalls International Academy

“I think imagination is at the heart of everything we do. Scientific discoveries couldn’t have happened without imagination. Art, music, and literature couldn’t exist without imagination. And so anything that strengthens imagination…can help us for the rest of our lives.”

- Lloyd Alexander

Melissa Rosen recognizes the importance of imagination and play in a child’s development. So the Robert Smalls International Academy Visual Arts teacher applied for a grant entitled “Imagination Building Center” for her PreK through 5th grade students through the Foundation. As a result, her students have had an opportunity to create some awesome architectural builds with a variety of different blocks allowing them to stretch and use their imaginations.

Using the materials purchased with the grant funded by the Foundation through the generosity of the Bargain Box of Hilton Head, students of all ages at RSIA have learned how to play thoughtfully while creating builds inspired by architecture using blocks, Legos, planks and Magna-Tiles as well as clay.

The newly created “Imagination Building Center” in her PK - 5th grade classroom allows children to follow their own interests and actively engage in the creative process through the use of play and sensory activities with block building and clay modeling. At the center, students have the opportunity to imagine and create in 3D using kinesthetic modalities.

For example, students have used Magna-Tiles along with an old overhead projector and watched how overlapping color tiles created new colors on the ceiling. In addition, all the students were able to learn about engineering through a challenge to build objects and buildings that could stand on their own.

The materials purchased were supplemented with architectural and other applicable reference images and video resources made available to students through anchor charts, cards, reference books and digital means for ideas on what to build. Their peers were able to offer constructive input on how to improve their structures and creations.

“In the wake of the COVID Pandemic, students need to be met where they are in their learning continuum,” explains Melissa. “In art, especially, imaginative play plays a crucial role. Play is a needed ingredient in both creativity and critical thinking.”

According to, “Kinesthetic learning encourages physical activity, bolsters cognitive, social, and emotional development, enhances the brain’s capacity to retain information, and develops not just one’s individual capacities and strengths, but also one’s self-confidence in those capacities.”

In addition to the advantages of kinesthetic learning, this imaginative play supports a sampling period in development. Students’ sampling of various artistic modalities elevates critical thinking, purposeful practice and leadership. Play is the test environment, building the process proficiency critical to students achieving success in Science, Math and English Language Arts. Additionally, this project aligns with the seven South Carolina Visual Arts Anchor Standards.

Thanks to funds from the Foundation, the generosity of the Bargain Box of Hilton Head and an imaginative teacher, the students at RSIA are encouraged to build and grow their imaginations each day at school – one structure at a time.


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