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Fourth-Graders Use Legos During Lesson

Fri October 22, 2010 - Northeast Edition
Megan McKeever

MANCHESTER, Md. (AP) A pit crew of fourth-grade girls was more than halfway finished constructing their Lego race car, readying to tighten the wheels, but it seemed a crucial piece was missing.

“Guys, I can’t find the 16-gear,” 9-year-old Ava Dreiband said to her pit crew partners Katie Matos and Veronica Cardosa.

“See? That one doesn’t have any teeth,” she said pointing to a smaller gray plastic gear.

With help from their teacher, Jamie Ball, the group realized the piece in question had been confused with another gear already in use, as they scrambled to finish their Lego-made car for the race.

Ball’s class was the second of four to participate in an in-class field trip in which students created battery-operated race cars out of Lego pieces. The event was sponsored by All About Learning, a Michigan-based company that works to teach students the basics of engineering.

Fourth-grade teacher Gina Roy organized the partnership between the school and All About Learning after getting an e-mail about the program last year.

Engineering is a new addition to the fourth-grade science curriculum this year, Roy said, and adding the Lego activity aligned well with their lesson plans.

“Today we’re all engineers,” All About Learning instructor Knajell Goodman told the class, walking them through the construction process.

After a brief lesson in assembly, students were divided into small groups and given a race car kit, including large and small Lego pieces, wheels, gears, a battery-operated motor and an illustrated instruction guide.

Students followed the guide and quickly completed their race cars, not so patiently waiting for the highly anticipated race to begin.

“We’re ready to race,” Jack Blair said of his car dubbed “Fred,” which was created with partner Hayden Cwiek.

The end-of-class races were done in groups and students navigated their homemade cars down an empty hallway, some crashing into walls and lockers while others made a straight shot to the finish.

“I don’t even know who won,” Veronica said after racing their team car.

Her partner, Katie, was excited to try out what she had learned at home, she said.

“I really like building things and being creative,” Katie said. “Now I know what I’m going to do with my brother’s building blocks.”

Glad to see her students had enjoyed the engineering lesson, Ball said she planned to expand upon the lesson in coming weeks.

“We’re going to go back and talk about changes we could make to the cars, to make them go faster and work better,” she said.

Roy agreed that reflecting about modifications is an important aspect of the activities and said she was glad to see cooperation was emphasized in the lesson.

“It’s usually not one person, one brain, working on design,” she said.

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