Posts Tagged ‘Inquiry Based Learning’

If you haven’t seen the LEGO movie yet I highly recommend you check it out and not just because there’s great effects and hilarious references for grown ups! It also has a great underlying message.

The premise is [SPOILER ALERT!!] that Lord Business wants all the Lego builders to follow the instructions so he can glue their perfect creations together permanently. The ‘Master Builders’, builders who use their imaginations instead, try to stop him. They mistakenly believe that Emmett, an ordinary builder, is a Master Builder and that he is ‘the Special’ or chosen one who will stop Lord Business from using his tool of mass destruction. As the plot reaches its climax, Emmett realizes that he CAN build using his imagination rather than instructions and that he is indeed ‘the Special.’

The LEGO® Movie – Official Main Trailer [HD]

This movie has had a lasting impact on my son. Frustrated by the tedious instructions for his Lego sets, he rarely played with them until after seeing this movie. Perhaps, with a little help from the movie’s hero, Emmett, he realized that he didn’t need to feel restricted by the instructions but rather could be free to use his imagination to create something original.

This message is ringing out loud and clear with the growth of the Maker Movement, Tinker time, and Genius Hours in our schools. Whatever you want to label it, it is hands on, student-directed learning and kids are learning a lot! I was really excited after last week’s class with Invent to Learn co-author and Maker movement proponent, Sylvia Martinez, to think about what offering this time could mean for students’ meaningful creating and learning in schools. I went searching for resources and found a lot of great stuff. Here are some of my finds…

Beyond Barbie – A great poster visual outlining different forms of play and how they could translate into ‘making’.

Flowchart by Anne Mayoral. Illustrations by Rob Nance.

This is a great jumping point where I found the following resources:

KidWind Project – windpower lessons complete with turbine and generator experiments

Siege Toys – Snap together desktop catapults and ballistas

Kinetic Creatures – Walking cardboard animal kits

Makedo-Construction tools for creative play

If that’s not enough to get you thinking there are a ton more on Jeremy Black’s blog post on Putting Maker Culture in the Classroom.

What I really like about the Maker movement is that it doesn’t necessarily require students (or their teachers;) to be computer savy or even tech savy in order to start.  I’m looking forward to bringing in some basic construction or craft materials and letting my students have at ‘er! We’ll add the technology pieces as we go.

The message is clear. Teachers, like Emmett, YOU are ‘the Special’. It starts with YOU. It is our job to ensure our students too hear that message–YOU are ‘the Special.’ Their imagination and motivation should be the only limits on their creativity and learning…not our fear or institutional restrictions. We can all be Master builders if only we Believe.
Maker tag crowd

Now to throw aside the instructions for our Kinex roller coaster, marble racer, Mouse Trap Game, TRIO blocks, and more…hmmm. What will we make today?

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My oldest son is 7 and he is currently enthralled with Angry Birds! Regular Angry Birds, Angry Birds Star Wars, Angry Birds Space, Angry Birds Seasons and most recently, Angry Birds Rio.  He would play non-stop if I let him. When he’s not playing he’s still thinking about them. He’s obsessed with the structure of the game. He’s studied the levels and has an intimate knowledge of the intricacies of the game. He knows the different set-ups within the game, how many levels are in each set and which birds arrive at which levels. (A little OCD perhaps? Maybe!)

When he’s exhausted his video game limit he takes to other activities to get his Angry Bird fix! He writes Angry Birds stories–one with pictures, one with mom as scribe, and most recently, one he’s written and illustrated on his own. He plays pretend with different colored blocks (aka birds) creating homes for them and imagining all sorts of scenarios for them. And now, he has graduated from angry bird blocks to printed out paper versions of the birds and has even included his younger brother in this newest version of Angry Bird play. (I was just excited they were playing nicely together and that my younger son was getting some fine motor practise cutting out his birds in the process!) It is healthy to be this obsessed with a video game? I don’t know but it has got him writing, creating and engaged and that can’t be a bad thing!

Not long ago he said he wanted to make up his own levels for the game. Ok, I thought, now we’re getting somewhere. “Great” I said “but you’ll have to check with the people who made the game in the first place since it was their idea.” (Nevermind learn how to program and navigate the world of video game development!) “But mom, who made Angry Birds?” Awesome! A little self-directed inquiry based learning is on the menu!

“Let’s find out,” I said. So we went on-line to check it out. We found an article about the inventors then snooped a little more to find them online. It didn’t take long before we had found all three of the original creators. HE WAS SOOOO EXCITED! I said, “Well, why don’t we email them?” “Can we?” he asked. “Sure, why not!”

SO WE DID!! We carefully scripted an email about how much he loved the game and how he was hoping to make up his own levels one day.

“Mom!  Am I on the angry birds team now?” “Well, not yet Bud, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t be one day.” “Let’s have a look at some of the other people that work there and what kinds of things they’ve done. Do you think they’d need some special skills to work there or maybe some special schooling?”

I started to lose him a little when we got reading about the staff at Rovio and what they’ve done but WOW were we excited when a few days later we GOT A REPLY to our email from an actual person! Kudos to Rovio Entertainment for their carefully crafted and encouraging response! My son was thrilled!

And what did I learn from our Angry Birds inquiry?

It’s amazing how motivated even a young student can be when learning is self-directed! I guess video games aren’t all that bad! It’s not a bad thing to have a thorough understanding of the rules (in this case, levels) before springboarding to make up on your own creations. Don’t we need to know our ABCs before we can read and write? Don’t we need to know the notes before we can play? Many great composers first copied the works of their teachers before writing masterpieces of their own. Wow, what’s next? Teaching grammar?;) There is a place for learning and drilling facts provided we take our students past memorizing to actually manipulating them and incorporating them into higher order thinking.

As for us on the homefront…I can’t wait to find out what the next ‘Angry Birds’ will be that will inspire my son to explore a new passion:)