Enfield schools enhance learning with LEGO creativity centers

By Calla Vassilopoulos - Staff Writer
Enfield - posted Fri., Aug. 9, 2013
In addition to building, students will photograph and share their creations with classmates. Courtesy photos. - Contributed Photo

For many years, public schools have created classrooms centered on teaching five basic skills: language arts, mathematics, science, history and technology. Aside from students learning the skills needed to function in society, public schools also encourage creativity through art and music. Enfield public schools decided to do something a little different this year, and incorporate all aspects of learning into one room.

The idea was formulated a year ago, when administration from the district office began discussions with LEGO's corporate office to determine how they could collaborate. Eventually, Enfield public schools became involved with the LEGO Foundation, which works to expand the use of the company’s products in an educational setting, according to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeffrey A. Schumann. The outcome was a three-year partnership to have LEGO creativity centers in the elementary schools.

“If it is something we can fine-tune and make real positive, they are going to take it and spread it out and use it all over the world,” said Schumann.

As of now, three of Enfield's elementary schools have a creativity room, and teachers in grades kindergarten, second- and fourth-grade classrooms are trained in the LEGO learning system. In the creativity classrooms, students will be working on their literacy, numeracy, and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) skills using the LEGO bricks. Next year, the school plans to have grades one, three and five ready to build.

All of the creativity centers’ materials are being funded by LEGO as part of the “Builders of Tomorrow” project. Aside from LEGO bricks, each classroom will also have a tablet-like computer with rotating screens, which will be used for children to photograph and share their builds online. Schumann said they will also be required to write about their creations and conduct presentations for their classmates.

“We are going to try this and see if it works,” said Schumann. “LEGO is actually spending somewhere between $300,000 and $400,000 to have an independent research group do some studies and determine the impact.”

Over the course of the next few years, the Goodman Research Group will be analyzing several aspects of the LEGO learning system. In order to collect sufficient data, the group will conduct pre- and post-testing to determine the change, if any.

One of the research questions centers around the learning impact of the LEGO systems in terms of students development of core skills. The group will be examining skills such as creative problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration and communication, according to Schumann.

In addition to student development, researchers plan to study how the roles of students and teachers change in the new learning system. They will look at whether or not the learning process becomes more student-driven, as opposed to teacher-driven. Part of their research will also examine the change in student engagement and the role it plays in the LEGO learning system.

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