By Barbara Vargo – Kindergarten Teacher – Propel Northside
On May 16, 2016 the Kindergarten Team at Propel Northside hosted the third Sturdy Roots Meeting of the year. Excited by the maker movement and play based education, my teaching partner, Tiffany Ward, and I planned an after school Maker’s Workshop for Propel Northside’s youngest learners.
Having attended PAEYC’s (Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children) Maker Tots Unconference at the Carnegie Science Center over the weekend, we were excited to share the compelling research and best practices we learned with our students and their families. At the unconference, Sara Wolman of the Lego Foundation, a division of the Lego Corporation whose mission is to establish and implement the strategies and actions to build a stronger future through play, gave the keynote speech. Wolman’s interactive address highlighted the ways play based learning increases student engagement, peer collaboration, problem solving skills, and acts as a natural platform for strengthening speaking and listening skills.
During Maker Tots, Mrs. Ward and I also attended workshops presented by the Children’s Innovation Project and Snapology. These hands-on professional development experiences were wonderful sources of inspiration for facilitating our upcoming Sturdy Roots meeting and for expanding our teaching practices. Furthermore, having had Snapology co-host the previous Sturdy Roots Session, we were excited to bring additional Lego Ed resources and lesson planning materials to our students.
During May’s Sturdy Roots Meeting and Workshop, our students made recycled flower projects alongside their family members through a collaboration with Pittsburgh’s Contemporary Craft, an artists based organization dedicated to engaging the public in creative experiences. Before the hands-on workshop commenced, Amy Masters, our resident artist for the evening, spoke about her fiber-based artwork consisting of sculptures, installations, and photographs which examine play.
A limited number of instructions were given so that students could collaborate with family members to create a unique masterpiece. Scientific elements were explored as students watched in wonder as Miss Amy used her heat gun to alter the form of the recycled plastic bottles composing the project. Through participating in the project, students were able to follow their natural tendencies to be curious and create. The Maker’s Movement is a fantastic step in the transformation of education as the student-centered practices naturally engage the children and encourage them to develop a range of social and character skills. Additionally, educators can strategically plan project based units inspiring creativity that align with the common core standards and complement curriculum.
Before the interactive Maker’s Workshop concluded, parents completed a Sturdy Roots Directory page so that the community building could expand beyond the school year. Additionally, due to funds provided by a generous Innovation Grant, each student and his or her family was able to take home a Maker’s Ed kit. The favors included the option of a make your own stepping stone or build your own robot kit. The stepping stone kit naturally integrates skills across disciplines including measurement, painting, and gardening, while the robotics kit reiterates STEAM based elements including early engineering and problem solving skills. Additional resources reinforcing play based education and the Maker’s and STEAM movements were auctioned off in a raffle. The raffle prizes included Bunchems, a building material encouraging kids to create through imaginative play, and a Goldiblox Kit, another building toy which including a character based story which seeks to get more young girls interested in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math).
Unleashing our imaginations alongside Contemporary Craft, our primary learners, and their families was an incredibly inspiring experience. The Sturdy Roots Project will host its final meeting and workshop on Monday, June 6th. Mrs. Ward and I are excited to partner with Community Kitchen Pittsburgh and cook up some fun at Propel Northside!