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.
As we aim to teach students how to solve complex problems through critical thinking and design thinking, we enable them to think as individuals but work collaboratively. This profound skill set truly enhances capacity to reason logically within the framework of an ability to comprehensively understand the challenge.
Our capacity as educators to see thinking is often challenging. One solution is to afford students an opportunity to work with physical manipulatives: HERE
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.