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STEM: many reasons why block play is important for young learners
STEM: Block Play In Kindergarten
24 Sep, 2017. 0 Comments. A Day In First Grade, Kindergarten, Preschool, Reggio Inspired. Posted By: Kristen Smith

STEM Block play in kindergarten

Every afternoon, we end our day with 45-60 minutes of uninterrupted play time. In our classroom, we call this “exploration centers.” During this time of the day, you will find many of my students playing in our block center. It is by far one of their favorite areas of our classroom this year.

block center in a kindergarten classroom blocks in a kindergarten classroom

In this center, students are provided the opportunity to play with many building and engineering materials. These items help students think outside the box and create new things each and every day. In true STEM fashion, students are provided the materials and are given ample amounts of time to explore.

The other day my students were building with these materials and a problem arose: their buildings kept toppling over. Again and again, building after building would come crashing down.

STEM: Block Play In Kindergarten

building anchor chart I asked my students why they thought their buildings kept crashing down and they came up with a few insightful reflections.  As we talked, I jotted down their ideas on an anchor chart.

The first problem they recognized was that in order for the buildings to stay standing, they needed a solid base. They discussed how they could use stronger and sturdier blocks at the bottom of their structures so that they could build upwards.

Next, they noticed that they needed to provide supports as they built.

Then, I introduced them to a balance. Together we built some structures and practiced using the balance. They quickly said that we needed to add that to the anchor chart and that balance was a key to a successful building.

Finally, they said that using teamwork was very important to building a tall tower.

As the days progressed, I noticed that my students were using their newly acquired knowledge and that their creations were getting more and more creative.

adding tools to your building center helps encourage STEM play and mathematical and engineering vocabulary

They eagerly took out the balances to make sure their creations were balanced.

STEM: Block Play In Kindergarten

They used teamwork to build amazing creations.

They even documented what they did.

kindergarten student documents a successful creation at the block center

This page says:

 √ Solid base

√ Supports

√ (picture of a balance)

Yes! We made it!

kindergarten student documents a successful creation at the block center

√ Teamwork

√ We did the right things!

(Then he drew a very detailed representation of their work!)

The buildings that were being constructed keep getting more and more intricate and the conversations and stories behind their creations are absolutely amazing.

On Thursday, a small group of students begin building. After about 35 minutes of work, this was what they had created.

STEM: Block play in kindergarten. Look what these kindergarten students created in their block center

At this point in the day, we had to stop for lunch so I asked them if they wanted to keep it up so that they could continue adding to it later on. They eagerly replied with, “YES!!!”

As my other students got ready for lunch, they admired the hard work of the group and offered many compliments to the engineers.

“Wow! Great building!”

“That looks awesome!”

{The group beamed with pride!}

After quiet time, they quickly got back to work adding many details to their creation.

STEM: Block play in kindergarten. Look what these kindergarten students created in their block center

As the creation got more and more intricate, some pieces would fall off.

My young learners would quickly say, “That’s ok! We all make mistakes– don’t worry! We can fix it!”

“Mistakes help our brains grow!”

“We can do it– don’t give up!”

As they continued to build, they recognized the importance of keeping the weight balanced on both sides of the structure and how to use counterbalances.

With about 20 minutes left in our day, we had to call the structure complete. The engineering team (very happily) took a picture of the amazing creation that they all the worked on and began the (very large) task of cleaning it up! With some teacher support, and giving everyone a specific job to do (J, you are on animal duty; S, you are on large block duty, etc.) we got the job done!
STEM: Block play in kindergarten. Look what these kindergarten students created in their block center

Block play not only helps students think like engineers, it teaches students how to problem solve, work collaboratively in a group, develop spacial awareness, builds confidence, develops fine and gross motor skills, encourages story telling, and helps students apply math skills in a fun and engaging way. More so, did you know that a study in the Netherlands found that 6th grade students who spent more free time in construction play performed better on a test of mathematics word problems (Oostermejier et al 2014)*. Other research suggests that children who work on cooperative projects form higher-quality friendships (Roseth et al 2009)*. Adding block play into your day is a very easy way to incorporate STEM activities into your day and provide your students with the opportunity to develop many common core and 21st century learning skills.

*(Source: http://www.parentingscience.com/toy-blocks.html)

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