Inventing a focus at University Lake School’s Lower School
That’s for certain. Although they may not realize it just yet, but a new after-school program at the school is teaching them about engineering and at the same time, getting the students to become critical thinkers.
The program, in its first year, focuses on engineering principles by way of Legos. ULS, according to Jen Costa, communications specialist at the school, is the first and only school in Wisconsin to offer the program to students.
When Hollenbeck met Madeleine Gabor, a Chicago Area manager of Play-Well TEKnologies, she thought the program would fit perfectly with the Lower School’s theme of inventions this year.
So far the response from students in the after-school program is overwhelmingly positive. There are two groups: kindergarten through second grade and third through fourth that will participate in the six-week program.
Second-grader Richie Dallen felt the different projects challenged him at times, while he caught on more easily to others.
“My favorite part is when we play the games after we build,” Richie said.
The students have the chance to play games with their creations after the instruction and building stage is complete.
Having fun while learning
Like most students in the program, Richie has Legos at home and enjoys the process of building different structures and objects.
“Everybody likes Lego,” Lower School Head Adriana Hollenbeck said. “It’s a common language.”
During the program’s second session, students learned from Ray Cisneros, a play-well employee who leads the class, about a gondola lift and how to create one with Legos.
“We want them to get introduced to the basic concepts of engineering,” said Cisneros. “I think the problem is it’s easy to become disconnected with science and math because it’s so abstract, but we take Legos and basically take these concepts and they’re able to learn them while building.”
Cisneros said the goal is to have fun while learning basic concepts of engineering.
“In the back of their mind, they’re going to remember gravity, they’ll remember friction, they’ll play around with torque,” Cisneros said.
According to Gabor, play-well, a California-based company, will be in the Kettle Moraine School District in January 2015.
Hollenbeck was drawn to play-well’s motto “Dream It. Build It. Wreck It. Repeat,” because it matched ULS’s goal to have students be intellectually curious and original thinkers.
“When you talk about intellectual curiosity and original thinking, a lot of that comes from playing and exploring and making mistakes,” Hollenbeck said.
The after-school program has drawn a good amount of interest, according to Hollenbeck.
“We have a waiting list,” she said. “You can see how engaged (the students) are.”
Hollenbeck noted the school, in collaboration with The Hawkins Center, will host a conference in February called Cultivate the Scientist in Every Child.
This is also part of the push to get the students to be more innovative thinkers.