Preparing my Students for the Future with Hands-On STEAM Learning

In conversation with Giavanni Coleman, 5th and 6th Grade Math and STEAM Teacher at East Avenue Elementary, Hayward, California, and LEGO® Education Ambassador.

Why do you integrate hands-on learning into your classroom?

It's important to truly engage my students in learning as opposed to just sitting and repeating. When lessons are hands-on, students get to apply a concept, see it, and then talk about it. This helps them realize how lessons apply to the real-world. It also allows them to better communicate and talk to each other. I also integrate hands-on learning into the sciences and engineering. Students get excited when LEGO® Education SPIKE Prime sets come out. It creates an avenue for us to learn something and have fun at the same time.

Why is it important for students to explore careers in STEAM?

I want my students to not put limitations on themselves. I want them to have the possibility to pursue something they never thought they could. I’ve seen students become more interested in STEAM careers after learning with LEGO® Education. We used the Career Toolkit featuring real-world STEAM professionals, which allowed my students to learn about different careers directly from actual people in these roles. The students were inspired, discovering they could do things they didn’t know about, and learning where they could start.

As we worked through the Career Toolkit activities, my students would identify the problem to be solved and then planned, brainstormed, and worked together to build solutions. That was when they realized creating with LEGO® bricks could lead to a career in STEAM. For me, it was a powerful moment of bringing hands-on learning and real-world examples to engage my students in understanding all the possibilities they can explore in their future.

What skills have you seen your students develop through hands-on learning?

I’ve seen my students develop important skills that are needed no matter where they go and what they do in life. These include:

  • Communication and collaboration
    My students learn how to communicate to share their ideas and listen to others. They learn to collaborate and work together as an important and respected member of a team. The quieter kids come alive - they want to talk and share. They're talking more to their peers and to me, so I get to see a different side of students when we're learning with LEGO Education. I see them engaging with each other in a more meaningful way.

  • Problem solving and critical thinking
    Students develop problem-solving skills and learn how to be flexible and try something new when things don’t go as planned. They also develop critical thinking skills to reflect and evaluate on how to make things work better together. This helps my students develop their leadership skills. Most employers want employees e who can think for themselves and make decisions in different scenarios. This makes it important for us to help our students develop these types of skills, like critical thinking.

  • Respect and compassion
    Most importantly, students learn how to respect themselves, others, and the environment in which we live. As learners, they also develop compassion for others who might think differently from them -- understanding that we all could use help and support with something. We all recognize that we bring a unique perspective and skills that makes us stronger together!

Why are you an advocate for learning through play?

Learning through play should be accessible to all students. For me, it's about giving more of our students access to play and seeing that play is a crucial part of education. Learning and playing don’t have to be separate, and play is not just a reward, which is so often how it’s used in the classroom setting. Teaching with purposeful play allows me to take on a facilitator role and gives students the opportunity to step up into leadership and citizenship roles in the classroom. Enabling my students in this way helps them to discover their interests while practicing and building their coding and engineering skills. The more we can offer these opportunities to our kids, the better we all are. Ultimately, our students will be prepared for the future and anything that the world throws at them.

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About Giavanni

Giavanni is a 5th and 6th Grade Math and STEAM Teacher at East Avenue Elementary in Hayward, California. Giavanni believes all students have gifts to share and stories to tell, and educators are responsible for creating safe and nurturing spaces for their ideas to thrive. In her role, Giavanni’s goal is to help students build trust and confidence in themselves so they can be challenged and create a better world.

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