Tools for Learning

Lianna Kali, Director of Instructional Innovation
In the ChangeMaker Lab we believe in using real tools for problem solving and building. From the earliest visits in kindergarten, students have the opportunity to practice their skills as designers, then use tools to make those ideas into a reality.
Here are some examples from this year highlighting projects featuring tools that have had an impact on student learning. 

Every year kindergarten explores water in its many forms. They extend that exploration in the ChangeMaker Lab by designing and building wooden boats. Kindergartners choose between small and large dowels for the mast and consider where and how they’ll attach a string for testing their boats in the water. They then use drills to make holes related to those design choices. Opportunities to problem solve arise when wanting to drill holes close to their boat’s edge or adding in additional dowels after some have been glued in already. They also learn foundational tool safety skills like clamping down their piece, tying back long hair, and wearing safety glasses as they practice using the drills. 

Bandsaw & Laser Cutter
Meanwhile in eighth grade, the Mars Rover project gives students opportunities to use tools like the laser cutter and bandsaw for making precise pieces related to their designs. The rovers require a collaborative process where teams create both a lander and a vehicle housed inside it. We saw students making careful measurements for components like wheels and axles then used the bandsaw and laser cutter to make these pieces. One group even prototyped custom-made and motorized gears as part of their design!

Awl & Hammer 
Several grades have used awls and hammers for making holes when a standard hole punch isn’t enough for the job. We saw sixth graders using them to make the bindings for their Acorn Stories books so they could sew together their paper folios with 120 pages! The hammer helped them tap the sharp tip of the awl through all those pages. Third graders used awls for poking holes into large sheets of cardboard to experiment with making mechanical linkages in their engineering unit.

We often think of iPads in relation to learning as a tool for writing or research, but our fourth graders have been using them as tools for documentation. They’re currently studying energy and making roller coasters and chain reaction machines to see examples of energy transfers in action. iPads played a significant role in their reflection process; some students decided to take a timelapse of their building so they could see how their machines changed over time. Others decided to use photos and videos to document their tests so they could then go back and improve on their designs. This photo and video documentation provided evidence to support their growing understanding of energy.


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