Page 30 - THE Journal, May/June 2018
P. 30

PENNSYLVANIA’S MONTOUR Elementary School stands out even among schools that
have embraced STEAM education, the maker movement, hands-on learning, and augmented
and virtual reality. So when the K-4 school opened the world’s first “Brick Makerspace” — a Lego- powered STEAM lab developed and implemented in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Lego Education, parents, students and a local Barnes & Noble — it wasn’t just a one-off affair; rather, it was yet another advance in the school’s efforts to integrate principles of STEAM education throughout the curriculum.
art lessons), and it offers various STEAM electives and activities available to students from kindergarten through senior year (in the high school that sits next door).
In addition, the school is nearly finished constructing its own MIT Fab Lab, which is expected to open within a month or two.
All this in a public K-4 elementary school.
But it isn’t just about the technology or the spaces themselves. It’s about learning and providing students with opportunities for growth that are beyond the ordinary, yet align with education standards.
“Our goal is to take the creativity and curiosity and actually build something
and incorporate engineering concepts, architecture concepts, animation, storytelling, testing, prototyping. We’re trying to take this whole Brick Makerspace with Lego and say how can we bring this not just to a special space, but incorporate it, embed it within everything we do within the curriculum,” said Justin Aglio, director of academic achievement (K-4) and district innovation at Montour School District.
The aim of the space is to provide hands-on learning experiences for the school’s young students to foster “spatial, fine motor, social, language and creative skills,” according to Lego — all that across a range of disciplines, including science, technology, engineering, math, arts, language arts and architecture.
“Supporting Montour Elementary School’s new Brick Makerspace with our Lego Education solutions is a natural collaboration as we share the same priorities of student-centered learning and the dedication to sparking and engaging the innate curiosity of every student with hands-on playful learning tools,” said Silver McDonald, head of Lego Education North America. “We look forward to seeing what the students using the new space will imagine, build and create for years to come, and how the 21st Century Skills they are acquiring will inspire and equip them for their future careers.”
“One of the things we’ve done over
| MAY/JUNE 2018
“I believe makerspaces and STEAM education get students interested
in learning at a very young age,”
Jason Burik, co-principal at Montour Elementary, told THE Journal. “STEAM education challenges students to learn and apply content and skills with fun, real-life projects. Skills learned can later then be applied to almost any job. We wanted to create a unique learning
space that kids would love coming to, something that no one else had, a room that would inspire students to become architects, engineers, designers, makers, and use problem-solving and critical thinking skills. We wanted a room that made students curious to learn and discover amazing things along the way.”
The space, which formally opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony held Feb. 22, is themed on Lego bricks, with activities ranging from brick building
to 3D printing to car racing to stop- motion animation to an interactive mixed reality system that lets students build structures and test their physical properties. Lego Education’s WeDo
2.0, Lego MINDSTORMS Education EV3, and Lego Education Simple and Powered Machines are some of the tools employed in the space, along with the new Lego Education Maker activities.
“The centerpiece of the room is the Creation Station, my personal favorite,” said Burik, who is, not coincidentally, an accomplished Lego artist and head of Brick Model Design. A lifelong
Lego enthusiast, he has in his adult life created Lego sculptures for Google, Cisco, the NFL, MLB, NHL and many other organizations. “I love to see the students stand around the perimeter of this, collaborate on projects. I’ve seen some really neat lessons take place here, in science and math. One, for example, is similar to a paper pass in the classroom. Kids start with a base plate, and they add one block. They have to pass to the person to the right, keep adding to that block. And when it comes back to them, it’s a really neat creation. And they have to
give it a title, count how many blocks are in it, what colors were used in it, what its purpose is. There’s all kinds of things you can do with that. It’s a simple activity.”
A School Purpose-Built
With good cause, the school, located
just outside of Pittsburgh in Robinson Township, is proud of its accomplishments in STEM and STEAM education and the collaborative efforts of its leaders with parents, students, industry and higher education. The almost-brand-new school (opened last year) was purpose-built for STEM and STEAM education. Prior to the Brick Makerspace, the school had already built, in its comparatively short history, a Minecraft Education Lab (in partnership with Microsoft Education), a Google Lab, a STEAM Lab and an Upcycling Room (where used objects are “upcycled” to produce new creations, often as part of

   28   29   30   31   32