Page 31 - THE Journal, May/June 2018
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[1] Montour Elementary Co-Principal Jason Burik is also an accomplished Lego artist. He’s pictured here at the Brick Makerspace’s central feature: the Creation Station. [2] Montour elementary educators Karen Bell (right) and Linda Ewonce seated at “the most-photographed spot in the school,” a bench made of blocks built by students and featuring a not-so-mini Lego figure. (The figure was donated by a local Barnes & Noble store.)
the past couple years, specifically here
at Montour [Elementary], is really tried to create spaces for kids to show their love of creativity and ingenuity,” said Christopher Stone, superintendent of Montour School District. “I think this space epitomizes that. Without a lot of direction, kids have the opportunity to come in here and really be creative and share their level of creativity with the teachers and have the open discourse and discussion. There’s a lot of carryover to 21st century soft skills — being creative, communicating with their peers, presenting. This is a space that certainly does embrace that idea.”
Educators On Board
Some of Montour’s own educators developed the lessons that are linked to state standards. (It’s worth noting Montour teachers also developed lessons for Minecraft Education, which are used by teachers worldwide.)
Those teachers are extremely
enthusiastic about the hands-on learning spaces in their school, and in particular the new Lego space. And they told THE Journal their students are wildly enthusiastic about the Lego space, as well.
“When I tell my students we’re going to the LEGO room, their eyes light up; they’re
jumping out of their seats. When we come up here, their eyes are as wide as anything; they’re just super excited to be here,”
said Karen Bell, a kindergarten teacher
at Montour who’s been teaching various grades for 18 years.
“From a creative standpoint, the kids really enjoy having the opportunity to
take what they’re learning and put it into something that they’re touching and feeling and to be creative,” said Linda Ewonce, fourth-grade teacher now in her 12th year as an educator. “In the classroom there’s a certain amount of instruction
you have to provide, but there’s also experiences you can provide for them in these rooms that we didn’t have before. We always used math manipulatives and things that they could touch and feel, but in here we can bring them in and give them a challenge and let them run with
it rather than telling them how to use
the manipulatives. And they will all find a different way to do it.”
As an example, she said she recently assigned students a project for a science unit that involved building houses in which to put electrical circuits. “And I think two of them built houses. The rest of them built things like cars; we had a movie theater;
we had a garden with an amusement park out back. Just allowing them to be creative with it.” Students also take items from
the makerspace to work in the classroom, which allows them to finish projects beyond the time allocated to the class in the makerspace. Ewonce said her class is using the Brick Makerspace on average about once a week, though it had been everyday in the weeks leading up to the formal opening.
Whatever time they spend there is well used, she explained, whether it’s developing competencies that are part of formal stan- dards or developing softer 21st century skills.
“It’s very open-ended and allows them to think on their own,” she said. “And there’s other things that come out of it, too, like they have to communicate with each other — which is a skill they’re really trying to work on — analyzing things together and then just basic math skills — shapes, colors, sorting.”
Beyond Bricklaying
The Brick Makerspace isn’t just about snapping Legos together. There’s also some STEM- and STEAM-related digital technologies involved.
Two groups at Carnegie Mellon University contributed two of the stations in the
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