LEGOS - one of the most popular toys for children of all ages worldwide. So when trying to solve the challenge of making learning fun…why not incorporate one of the students’ favorite toys into the classroom? That was the thought process of Dara Kappel, the Robotics Teacher at Bluffton Elementary School with her project entitled “Full STEAM Ahead” that received grant funding from the Foundation of Educational Excellence last fall made possible by a generous donation from the Moss Creek Charitable Foundation.
The grant money given to Kappel allowed the school to purchase Lego Education Spike to be incorporated into the robotics classroom for students in grades kindergarten through third grade. Spike engages students in hands-on investigation of STEAM concepts using everyday themes, Minifigures, and Lego building sets to solve problems through storytelling. This program allows students to go through the steps of the engineering design process across multiple subject areas as they complete theme based projects. Some of the projects include: trash/recycling, creating a high tech playground, designing new vehicles for travel, and creating amusement rides.
STEAM education is an approach to teaching that combines Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math to guide student inquiry, discussion, and problem-solving. More than just developing practical skills, STEAM encourages students to take thoughtful risks, become problem solvers, embrace collaboration and work through the creative process. This approach teaches students to be curious learners seeking creative solutions to questions that they can’t just Google.
The school received the Lego Spike Essential kits in time to use them with all classes during the last semester of the 2021-22 school year. Students worked through the engineering design process to build, test, debug, iterate, rebuild, and share their creations.
To introduce this new resource to the students Kappel started with explaining the different hardware and software that is used with Lego Spike allowing students time for hands-on exploration. Through this process, the students learned about computational thinking and understanding the importance of sequencing when engineering a design. Students also learned how to read blueprints so they could build their prototypes correctly. Second grade students had the opportunity to learn how to identify a problem, brainstorm solutions, and test and improve their prototypes.
According to Kappel, this project has greatly enhanced student learning by teaching them about the engineering design process and STEAM. The use of Lego Spike has also helped students engage in critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and communication. In addition, Kappel feels that the students have become more independent learners because the app (downloaded on school iPads and computers) guides them through the process, allowing the students to work at their own pace. Through this project, all students learned how to code their prototype to function correctly. Lego Spike lends itself to supporting differentiation and letting students be creative and add more features to their design as their ability level grows.
Kappel said her students really flourished using this program and is grateful for the impact it has had in her classroom. Kappel is thrilled to be able to reuse the kits for years to come. And she is grateful to the Foundation and the Moss Creek Charitable Fund for making it all possible.
“Thank you again for awarding this grant to my students,” says Kappel. “And for giving them an opportunity to build and grow their engineering design skills along with learning how to communicate and collaborate more effectively with their peers.”
It turns out that Legos can be more than just an average building block or a scattered mess in a child’s playroom. Through the creativity and hard work of innovative teachers like Kappel – they can be an invaluable learning tool as well.
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