By LEAP Educators
The holidays are quickly approaching and that means winter break from school for students across the U.S. Much emphasis has been placed on incorporating STEM curriculum into schools, but during winter breaks these important lessons can go right out the window.
The LEGO Education Ambassador Program (LEAP) advises LEGO Education, the education division within the LEGO group, on how to meet the needs of educators and students. The panel consists of 50 educators, across all levels of education, who are experienced with the trials and triumphs of using unconventional teaching tools in the classroom.
Drawing from our experience using a wide gamut of education technology, we compiled the following list of tips and tricks for parents to help keep students engaged in STEM at home during their holiday breaks.
“Students tend to get bored during the holidays. To keep STEM alive students can use LEGO bricks to practice math concepts, create new holiday recipe cards, design Placemats for the tables or engineer some ornaments out of miscellaneous materials (ARTS: STEAM); complete 20 hours of code from Code.org, as well as build and measure the speed of race cars using SPARKvue. STEM is about integrating engineering and design into real life!”
Dr. Shirley Disseler, STEM Coordinator, School of Education, High Point University
“An easy one is to build small themed activities around holidays. I also believe it is important that we broaden the scope of STEM to include cooking, doing goodwill and more of the household projects that parents’ can relate to. We have to begin to eliminate the boundaries of STEM where everything must be coding and robots. There is so much more. These are important and my passion, but it can be intimidating to so many who don’t have that background and experience.”
Aaron Maurer, Instructional Coach, Bettendorf Middle School
“Activities like Hour of Code and craft activities provide terrific STEM learning opportunities. We need to provide students with the tools to play with coding and creating their own projects. We need to encourage toys that are more active and open. Television and many games leave student creativity in ‘park’ and do not provide the learning ‘through doing’ that is a building-block of STEM.”
Stephen Meehan, Tech Integration Specialist, Naperville School District 203
“Use building materials such as LEGOs, cardboard boxes and shoe boxes to build representations of the Mayflower or to build a Christmas tree. Build scenes that depict Thanksgiving, holiday traditions or winter celebrations with your family.”
Mary Meadows, Kindergarten Faculty and Early Childhood Chair, Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School
“Deconstruction labs and repair cafés are two great ways to keep kids excited about STEM principles. Basically, kids have an opportunity to deconstruct or take something apart to investigate how it works and then there are simple tools to try and reassemble an object to make it work again. Boxes are another great resource to use. Be sure to thank Amazon and all the other resellers for all the cardboard treasures. Kids can begin to tinker and build with them to produce any number of innovative and creative things. Finally, thematic challenges are a great way to embrace STEM for the holidays. For example, how many elves can make it across the wrapping paper bridge? Give the students resources like wrapping paper, ribbons, and tape to hold up action figures over a distance. Overall, encourage kids to ask questions and make sense of the phenomena that’s already around them.”
Jon Bishop, STEM Coordinator for Canton Public Schools
Here are some additional activities teachers have shared on the LEGO Education Community board that students and parents could adapt and do at home over the holidays:
- Having some hot chocolate? Why not build a Marshmallow Thrower to launch those sweet treats into your cocoa mug or at a target?
- It’s a winter wonderland outside – but how cold is it really? Kids can build a thermometer and collect temperature data over break, analyzing and drawing conclusions about the weather in their area in the winter.
- It’s nice to curl up by the fire with a good book at night, and reading fairytales together with the family is a fun activity. Pick your favorite fairy tale and design a motorized solution to the main problem.
For more, see:
- Best of 2016 STEM Gifts for Kids: Preschool Through Elementary
- 12 Ways to Start Teaching STEM in Your School
- 5 Ways To Get Parents Involved in Student Learning Beyond Homework
The LEGO Education Ambassador Program (LEAP) represents grades K-12 and collaborates with LEGO Education to develop classroom solutions and curriculum that elevate STEM concepts, and 21st-century learning skills.
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