Diving into STEM Curriculum without Limits
Coyote Creek Elementary
Highlands Ranch, Colorado
At Coyote Creek Elementary in Highlands Ranch, Colorado students and teachers partner in innovative learning. Holly Lehr’s sixth grade classroom is one of many classrooms in their district, where teachers are encouraged to expand, explore and be innovative with their instruction to engage their students.
In Holly’s classroom, her sixth graders are exploring, discovering and creating using LEGO® Education models. “My biggest concern is to make it purposeful for the students,” says Holly. Holly and the other educators in her building, develop units, which include one to two lessons with LEGO® Education solutions. At Coyote Creek Elementary, “K-6 is using them in some way shape or form. We have many different types of sets, so it makes it easier for us to incorporate it,” says Holly of the sets that she shares across classrooms. It’s a collaborative effort among the students and teachers.
Holly uses LEGO® Education StoryStarter in her classroom to help the students organize and understand concepts, by developing the beginning, middle and end of a story. It allows students to formulate their thoughts and communicate to their peers. “It’s a way for the kids to explore outside of just writing. They have to collaborate, communicate and justify their thinking. There have been opportunities for kids that struggle with expression or students that struggle with writing, and that’s where they really shine,” says Holly, “because they can let their creativity go.”
Using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 models Holly introduces her students to math—to a world of fractions and decimals. “You ask the deeper, higher-level questions, let them know the purpose for building, and let them know what they’re going to need to do when they’re done building.” We like the EV3’s for problem solving and working with math concepts like ratios and proportions.”
It’s a way for the kids to explore outside of just writing. They have to collaborate, communicate and justify their thinking.
Teacher, Coyote Creek Elementary, 6th grade, Highlands Ranch, Colorado
The principal, Gigi Whalen, was excited by the engagement she was seeing in those classrooms and integrated it across grade levels in the school. Gigi brought in training from LEGO® Education Academy to learn about the solutions. “The training really helped with what you could do with it, and then it’s just about the imagination and taking a teacher’s perspective on what you could do with it.”
In Holly’s classroom, students are free to create and explore with purposeful instruction behind their play. The flexibility of the models and lessons allows Holly to facilitate a creative and safe learning environment. After 17 years of implementing and integrating lessons and teaching methods in her classroom, Holly’s advice to other teachers remains constant, “My advice is to just jump right in and do it,” she says. “I think a lot of teachers tend to over-think and they try to over-plan it and they’re afraid of it because it is new and they’re not sure how to integrate it, but the kids will help. They’re not afraid of anything.”