Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Parents' Night in the Lego Engineering Classroom

You remember parents' night at school, right? Parents get to go to your classrooms, sit in your desks, listen to your teacher talk about what you'll be doing all year. The Lego Engineering classroom on Wednesday night was a bit different....

Children who had temporarily escaped their parents were clustered around desks taking apart and putting together parts of the partially-assembled cars from Week 2. Parents would occasionally walk in looking lost (as we were not giving any formal presentations...too boring), and given that I speak Spanish and many of the children come from Spanish-speaking households, I would rein them in by asking them if their kids had told them about the class. The lost look would disappear, and they would tell me how much their children had been talking about this class and how the older siblings were jealous that it hadn't been offered when they were in 3rd or 4th grades.

I told them some of the basic principles that their children would be learning about, e.g., how to solve problems by trying things out rather than reading text books and answering questions. One mother was fascinated because her child has been having trouble paying attention in school, and for the first time has become fully engaged in a class (and of course is begging for an NXT kit of his own). She sees the connection between this class and the basic skills he needs to work on, like reading: if he wants to pursue Lego Engineering as a hobby, in the absence of a teacher or volunteer, he'll need to read instructions, find information on the web about how others have solved problems, etc.). Another family had two younger daughters not yet old enough for the class, and simply wanted to find out what all the excitement was about. They were genuinely grateful to the Google volunteers for their time and effort, and recognized the value of exposing children to alternate forms of learning that they may not have access to at home.

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