Spiraling through the many years of a K-12 education are various levels of math, language, writing, social studies, the sciences, and the traditional topics we expect in such an environment. The education community is pushing towards STEM/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math – with the inclusion of Art) with the realization that the space in which students will eventually be employed has changed dramatically. Not only has the environment changed with advances in technology, globalization, access to information, social and political change, and environmental challenges, but the pace of change is increasing. We are now trying to integrate the disciplines with a view to increased creativity through cross-discipline pollination. Is this enough? Are we fulfilling our essential and critical responsibility in providing opportunities to enable our children to operate successfully in this environment?
Essential features in education looking forward should include:
• learning to correctly and accurately find, describe, and solve complex challenges
• attaining the skills required to work successfully in groups
• the ability to welcome and work through adjustments, modifications, and failures
• demonstrating to students the practical applications of their classroom learning
To these ends, we at Blue Egg Advisory Group LLC have invented and developed a unique manipulative to foster these concepts in young learners (K-6) as they prepare for secondary school and beyond. Our INTOOBA Construction Kit manipulative offers many opportunities for hands-on experimentation through leveled curriculum manuals in math and engineering.
Logical thinking, the process of moving sequentially from one thought to another in order to reach a conclusion or solve a problem, is an essential skill. Teaching this complicated process to young students can be challenging. However, using the INTOOBA Construction Kit, students can construct physical models and see an explanation of how logical thinking works.
Exercise: teacher assigns values to the rods and connectors. Students are asked to logically establish what is missing in the figure and what they need to complete the construction. They are asked to give values to what they see, what is missing, and what a completed piece would be worth. Students are asked to complete the model, and share their thinking process with the group.
Students use logic to establish what is missing, and then use their hands to solve the challenge.
In integrating collaborative work in our approach to K-12 education, we are teaching students the benefit of listening, learning from others, coming to consensus on ideas, and other group dynamics. These are all essential skills in group problem solving exercises in school, and in adult project based work. What we should not lose sight of is both valuing the individual as a contributor, and building personal communication skills thereby promoting effective group dialogue and collaboration. It takes a very skilled teacher to nurture the individual as a person of abilities, aptitudes, and evolving capacity while at the same time teaching effective group dynamics. Productive group work is predicated upon individual skills in communication, and group skills in collaboration. We want children to know that their opinions and observations are highly valued, we want them to have the skills to communicate them effectively, and we develop collaborative skills to make project based learning effective.
In early development of these skills, it may well be the case that using physical manipulatives in the classroom facilitates the development of communication skills across curriculum topics. As personal skills in, for example, vocabulary, persuasion, reasoning, and advanced thinking develop, children could use manipulatives to assist them in communicating their ideas with peers. This is evidenced in the example of Kim Haines, 4th grade teacher at Dawson School in Lafayette, CO who used the INTOOBA Construction Kit in developing communication skills in listening, giving directions, providing clarification, and in either being a giver or receiver of information in her math class:
Essentially, teachers can observe individual thinking and development of these essential skills through the use of manipulatives while also noting the child’s functioning within a collaborative setting. Children here are supported in the learning of specific collaborative language through the use of their hands.
BLUE EGG ADVISORY GROUP, LLC are very pleased to announce the launch of the Intooba construction kit for K-6 math and STEAM education. This innovative product enhances the creativity and learning of students in these grades.
When rote learning education models closely mirrored early industrial production based economies, outputs in the classroom followed the teacher driven input- predetermined output style. Modern theories of education include a far greater degree of student involvement in their learning. Additionally, in an attempt to mirror rapidly changing political, environmental, and economic factors, problems presented to children often involve a necessity for self-directed inquiry where outcomes are far from preset. In such an environment, it is vital to provide an opportunity for children from an early age to interact with information inputs in the process stage of learning.
As such, developing ways for children to understand what process is includes opportunities to work mindfully in this space. Examples of process learning might include working with mathematical manipulatives, reading a recipe and making a cake, investigating the scientific method in a collaboration on a specific topic with a university professor/researcher while in high school, or identifying and investigating a social need and developing a product to meet that need. Processes already exist in many areas of education, but seldom are they identified as a specific learning goal in and of themselves. Design thinking, critical thinking, art appreciation and discussion, the scientific method, negotiation, and conflict resolution are just some of the topics which may fall under this category. Applying these techniques to multidisciplinary subject areas enhances students’ capacity to solve problems creatively.
Students need to delve into, and work through, process in order to grapple with the complexities and demands of modern society. Process inquiry meets the curiosity of students who are always asking why and how in their daily learning.
I was very interested to read the attached Mindshift article about how we view student academic struggle in schools. Eastern cultures appear to see struggle as an integral part of the learning process, whereas the article states that western cultures see struggle as a weakness, or something needing immediate correction. It would be interesting to have a discussion linking these perspectives with Angela Duckworth’s idea on developing grit.
There is a tendency among younger children to compartmentalize what they have learned in each discipline, and not to stretch one piece of learning into another discipline. A very interesting and engaging project is to ask the children to become travel agents, and plan a vacation trip of their own. In this way, students learn to navigate the quite complicated world of airline and hotel websites, choose destinations based on political safety, convert currencies, look at maps, research cities/destinations on the web, plan a budget, and learn something about a country or region. Asking children to do all this in a single project engages them fully in the learning process, and brings mathematics into geography, technology into budgeting and so on. Later, children can use these research skills in many ways on other projects. The joy of early learning is to master adaptable skills which are useful throughout life, but particularly as they progress through their formal learning environment.
TRAVEL PROJECT # 1
You are to become a travel agent. Book your ideal holiday vacation to a destination of your choice. You must give an itemized budget for your trip. Total available dollars: $8000.00
You may consider yourself a single adult for the purposes of this exercise.
You need to:
(1) Decide which time of year you will be traveling
(2) Find an airline. Ascertain rates for travel.
(3) Find a hotel. Get rates for thirteen or fourteen nights.
(4) Find what you will be doing and eating. Include in budget.
You need to write an essay on your project. Be sure to include:
History and geography of the place you are visiting
Write a detailed budget
Find an example of the following:
A mathematician or scientist
Describe something about their life or work. What contribution did they make to society? How does their work impact you?
Travel Project # 2
Travel to the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World using the least amount of money, and in the shortest amount of time.
How much more engaging would our teaching of young people be if we paid careful attention to how we as humans process sensory inputs, delivered an understanding to our students of how our brains work, and had a healthy grasp of the connection between the brain, emotions, and feelings?
I was fascinated to read about the work of Antonio Damasio in the MIT Technology Review magazine (June 17, 2104) recently. We all realize the vital importance of grit, tenacity and dogged determination in learning. However, being able to connect our understanding of the fundamentals of brain mechanics and human perception with the curriculum is very compelling.