A good imagination is the key to making a story come alive, but a cool set of LEGO blocks sure doesn't hurt.
That's the philosophy behind the LEGO Education StoryStarter sets, educational kits designed specifically to offer students a tactile way of engaging in reading. The kits combine the familiar charm of the iconic building blocks with the latest in educational technology. Specifically, the kits include software geared toward language arts, reading and other academic standards. Sarah Pauly, a librarian and technology teacher at Belleview Elementary School, saw plenty of promise in the basic premise behind the LEGO sets.
"I wanted something that was engaging and kinesthetic for my students, and these kits have definitely done that," Pauly said. "We're using the kits with our 4th- and 5th-graders right now. I give them stories … They have to build scenes from the story and build a beginning, middle and end," she added, likening the activities to the brand of sequential storytelling common in comic books. "They're taking pictures of their LEGOs and integrating narration and dialogue."
The kits combine a well-known toy with innovative technology and the basic tenets of attentive reading, Pauly said. They also cost money, but that didn't stand in the way for Pauly. She won a $1,000 Educator Initiative Grant through the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation, and drew on funding through the school's PTCO. Together, those funds bought 10 StoryStarter kits for the school, which Pauly started using earlier this year.
"There are about 1,200 pieces in each kit," Pauly said. "There is also curriculum that come with those. They all have the Colorado Academic Standards integrated into the stories; there are quite a few standards in each story," she said, adding that the activities cover standards that range from working in groups to technology to reading and communications.
So far, the kits have resulted in a visible brand of engagement in reading and storytelling, Pauly said. The resources have been so successful, she's already finalizing the purchase of five additional kits, sets that specifically emphasize curriculum rooted in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
Pauly said the resources made available through the Foundation, which is dedicated to impacting all district students, investing in innovation in the classroom and building long-term relationships in the community, has made a lasting impact in the classroom in less than six months.
The kits have also given her new insights into a very old toy.
"I learned a lot about LEGOs," she said. "I never had them as a kid, so it's been interesting."