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 LEGOs Teach Collaboration, Other Life Skills

3/11/2019 12:00 AM

​When Taylor Nelson-Anderson and Jaeden Clinite can't agree on what color to program the flashing light on their LEGO robotic machine, they don't stop working. 

They work it out. 

Teaching the art of collaboration is just one of the benefits of the LEGO Education program, which is at Rolling Green Elementary School and 16 other Rockford Public Schools this year. 

Brandie Fago's fifth grade classroom at Rolling Green is where Taylor and Jaeden learn with LEGOs. The lessons are led by Nicole Brickey, a fifth grade teacher who works with deaf and hard-of-hearing students. She is one of 13 educators in the district who are certified LEGO Education trainers, and the training will expand even more this summer. 

Next school year, the certified trainers will support K-5 teachers throughout the district who want to use LEGO Education in their classrooms.

On a recent morning, Mrs. Fago's students at Rolling Green were hyper-engaged with a LEGO lesson requiring them to pair with another student to practice coding and programming. The students huddled over their laptops, figuring how they could program the sensors in the LEGOs to make sounds, move forward or backward at varying speeds, stop on command and flash a choice of colored lights.

The class then gathered in a circle to explain what each team had accomplished – or, if their machine didn't work, what strategy they would use to try again.

Tracy Jaconette, an instructional coach who is LEGO-trained at Carlson Elementary, could not believe how quickly a LEGO lesson helped Carlson students speak about complex topics like gear ratios.

At Rolling Green, Mrs. Fago was happy to see that LEGOs were on students' wish lists at holiday time. She reinforced a message from Susan Uram, Educational Technology Coordinator for RPS 205: LEGOs are more than just fun. They offer foundational lessons aligned to the K-5 curriculum and emphasize problem-solving, collaboration and communication with peers. Students use critical-thinking skills to describe their experiences programming the devices and the opportunities and difficulties they encounter.

"It's not just, 'This is how a brick fits together.' This is how two people work together, this is how three people work together," Mrs. Uram said. "What we uncovered is not only how much this can support academic skills, but the social-emotional part."

"There's a lot of trial and error that goes on. Our kids have to have perseverance." 

Mistakes are OK and are part of learning. "That's part of the process," Mrs. Uram said. "We didn't just give up and say, 'Oh well.'"

Alanah Figueroa (left) and Donovin Barnes work with WeDo 2.0, a LEGO Education kit, at Rolling Green Elementary School.
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