Extraordinary Lower School Opportunities
On a recent morning, kindergarten students in Sherry Harris and Delphia Daniels’ classroom paired off to build simple machines together. To the uninitiated, it may have looked like play time. In fact, this type of activity is setting the foundation for the kinds of skills these students will continue to develop as they tackle ever more complex learning in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM).
“In kindergarten, we’re integrating many age-appropriate aspects of design thinking and engineering into our play-based learning curriculum to expose children to both abstract and concrete problem-solving,” says Mrs. Harris. Design thinking is a methodology that draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning to solve complex problems.
For instance, Tim Moxley, Lower School information technologist, recently visited kindergarten classrooms to work with the children on abstract problem-solving. First, he read them “The Most Magnificent Thing” by Ashley Spires, a funny story of a girl and her dog that offers a perfect example of the rewards of perseverance and creativity.
Then the children were given toothpicks and mini marshmallows. Working in groups of two or three, they tackled an open-ended design challenge—plan, design, and construct your own building. Through collaboration, trial and error, willingness to revise, and persistence, the groups created unique structures. “Some of the students built a really solid foundation with nearly all their marshmallows at the bottom. Others sought to mimic real-life buildings, like the Duke Energy Center,” explains Mrs. Harris. “It’s really not about the finished product, but rather the process to get there.”
While this assignment was all about creativity and abstract thinking, there is also value in developing concrete problem-solving skills. Each kindergarten classroom has sets of LEGO Education Series simple machines. This type of problem-solving is more purposeful as students work together to follow specific design instructions.
“Today’s students need to develop both abstract and concrete thinking skills,” says Mrs. Harris. “We’re very excited about bringing these activities into the kindergarten classroom. The children just want more and more, and we know this is preparing them not only for their future classes and courses, but also for a workplace that values these kinds of skills.”