LEGO® Education Master Educator
Danielle Nicholas is a PreK Teacher for children ages 4 to 5 years old at Primrose in Massachusetts. Within her school, Nicholas’ students explore different learning stations around the classroom as they develop skills in STEM.
With her guidance and step-by-step direction, Nicholas and her students create rides for a theme park based around the concepts of science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) using LEGO® Education STEAM Park. “The students were super excited to utilize other materials than just the bricks,” says Nicholas. The variety of gears, tracks, pulleys and connecting elements allows the early learners to explore beginner concepts in STEAM.
“They don’t even know it’s helping them problem-solve as they tinker,” says Nicholas. Using STEAM Park, Nicholas encourages creativity in her students and introduces basic level cause and effect relationships, predictions and observations, problem-solving, and creating representations. With her students, they guess how far their car will go on each ramp or how many times their ride will turn. They role-play, collaborate on building rides and communicate in groups. STEAM Park builds on every child’s natural curiosity and desire to create, explore and investigate the world of early STEAM through creative play.
Nicholas tells of one student whose uncle is an engineer for ride design at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. As they used STEAM Park to build rides, the student related the STEAM Park elements to the stories he was hearing about at home. “It was neat for him to be able to connect what he was learning at home to the materials.” For Nicholas, seeing this child make connections between their experiences at home with experiences in the classroom using STEAM Park is what makes her job so rewarding.
In Nicholas’ classroom, her early learners are surrounded by an environment where failure is encouraged because it means they get to try again and again. “At this age they are using such creativity. They would rather be creative and use their imagination than be perfect,” says Knapp. “It’s character building for them. At that age, it may be the first time they are experiencing failure and they are developing their independence and confidence. My guys are still imagining and getting creative and their success is that they built something that was their own.”
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