LEGOs are more than just plastic bricks these days. Now, they’re ways to get kids interested in math, science and creative writing.
Several Gainesville City Schools teachers learned this firsthand at a LEGO symposium this weekend at Georgia Tech.
“I saw it as a way to really engage students and show them that math can be used in real world settings,” said Carolyn
Craddock, a fifth-grade math teacher and instructional technology specialist at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School. “I found myself playing with the robots and enjoying it and I can’t imagine how cool the kids will find them.”
The workshop, a robotics symposium sponsored by LEGO Education and National Instruments, was geared to show teachers how to get students excited about science, technology, engineering and math.
Teachers got to program LEGO robots and learned ways to incorporate STEM into their curricula.
“We are so motivated and inspired to use this in the classroom,” said Havilyn Towns, an MPACT or gifted student teacher at Centennial Arts Academy. “It increases students’ interest in math and science. You think about robots and boys are usually interested but this is a way to get girls too.”
Towns said to exercise this point, a girl who had trouble in school but became interested in robotics spoke to symposium attendees. The girl is now studying engineering at Georgia Tech.
“Girls can be just as competitive as guys,” said Gainesville High School math teacher Dave Head. “(Robotics) is aggressive competition where they can beat the guys with their brains and organizational skills. As soon as the girls see that they can do this they want to get involved. It kind of levels the playing field.”
Head and Nantheyyen Ramachandran, a physics teacher at Gainesville High, found the information at the conference valuable for their newly formed Robotics Alliance.
Though their students will be using a different robotic technology than LEGO, Head said he saw the benefits the program could have for younger age groups.
“As a first-year math and science teacher for fifth grade, it sounded very interesting,” said Ashley Dodd, a teacher at Centennial. “This gives them the opportunity to work with LEGO robots, which are cool toys but also good tools.”
Dodd said she wants to use LEGO bricks to teach fractions. Using a large brick as a base, students can cover up portions with smaller bricks and determine what fraction of the large brick remains.
Other teachers took direct inspiration from activities the symposium coordinators had them do.
“They gave us a small bag of LEGOs and they had us create a visual of what we wanted to learn at the workshop,”
Craddock said. “I thought that was a really interesting way to bring in writing. You can have kids build a scene and start writing about it. Especially our language learners, they need that visual cue. It’s harder for them to just pull words out of thin air.”