Having recently returned to the Kinder classroom after four years as an ELD Coordinator, I have realized how the rigor and academic demands on Kinders have increased. Kinder students today require many more higher level thinking skills and very specific vocabulary, in all academic areas (i.e., Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Science, Etc.) More specifically, there is an emphasis in STEM learning. STEM is a curriculum based idea of teaching students with four specific disciplines in mind — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The idea is to use this interdisciplinary and applied approach to develop global skills needed for the future . President Obama indicated in March 23, 2015 that, “[Science] is more than a school subject, or the periodic table, or the properties of waves. It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world...". With this in mind, the objective of my project is to create opportunities that enhance STEM learning in the classroom for my students. With Magna-Tiles students could create structures that would bring "fun" to STEM learning. Additionally, I believe that the Magna-Tiles, and the activities that tap into the students imagination, supports the development of rich vocabulary that can then significantly impact the Language Arts content area. I envision students using their creations to develop their listening and speaking skills as well as their skills in journaling, story development, etc.
I strongly believe that the Magna-Tiles will benefit students in a variety of ways. As noted in my objectives paragraph, the content areas the Magna-Tiles can facilitate are multi-disciplinary. These tiles come in many shapes and colors. They have magnetic edges that allow children to build as the sides of these tiles magnetically snap together. All sorts of shapes, sizes, and structures result in giving children spatial understanding of how design is affected by the placement of geometric shapes. Building up or across, our emerging "engineers" will see the relationship between mathematics and design, science and technology. I have requested three kits, each with 100 pieces so that the children will have an adequate number of tiles to develop significant work that demonstrates basic STEM principles. In addition the multi colored tiles afford students the opportunity to include color design as part of developing an aesthetic awareness in construction. With a new emphasis on STEM learning in the Common Core Curriculum, these tiles are just the type of hands-on vehicles for learning that are proving to be highly effective. Magna-Tiles provide the perfect "differentiated" perspective that can be used in a collaborative atmosphere to spark inquisitive young minds.
The Magna-Tiles will enhance my teaching by supporting the “whole” student in order to foster the skills necessary to become academically competitive now and in the future. The tiles will help to transform the typical teacher-centered classroom into an environment that is student-driven. First and foremost it allows students to be actively engaged in the learning processes and working in collaboration with other students to accomplish a shared goal. Students will explore real-world problems and challenges relevant to their lives in and outside of school. The tiles allows students different avenues of acquiring content or making sense of ideas in a diverse classroom setting. Lastly, the tiles promote an approach where I can connect content areas across instructional units for deeper understanding of instructional standards. The district is moving to support accelerated learners and low achieving students. As well as provide STEAM opportunities to all students. I believe the Tiles would support these districtwide initiatives.
I will begin to use the tiles immediately. After initial "housekeeping" lessons, students will begin to use the tiles as one of the STEM "Zonas" centers in our daily schedule. What are "Zonas"? They are a way to integrate content, reading and writing during hands on activities that promote critical thinking. Each "Zona" has a specific focus. The Kinder team has agreed to develop similar "zonas" as the first grade classrooms, including but not limited to; Mathematics, Language Arts, Engineering, Science, Technology, Poems, Fine Motor Skills, Theater, Art. We can also use them in multiple disciplines and concepts such as language development, imaginative play, fine motor skills, hand eye coordination, visual and spatial understanding as well teamwork and collaboration.
Absolutely! I am fortunate in the fact that I am working with a very supportive and flexible team. We share resources, ideas, and we would probably create a rotation schedule for the tiles. Having said that, it would be awesome if we could get 3 sets for EACH kinder classroom. That would provide equity amongst the classroom as well as more consistency for the "Zonas".
I spoke with Kyle M and Molly H and was informed that neither the school site nor the PACE are able to fund this grant at this time.