With a kit of specialized Lego pieces and only their imaginations limiting them, students at Delhi Public School have been hard at work the last few months solving a pressing problem facing humanity: how to live and flourish on the moon.
“Over here is the greenhouse where we grow plants to eat, and this is where the oxygen tanks are stored because you need oxygen to breathe on the moon,” explains Grade 3 student Jake, pointing out distinct features of a table-top Lego landscape in front of him. “We also heat water from the moon ice we go out and get, and you can even have a shower but you have to use towels and sort of rub the water on you because otherwise the water would just float up since there’s no gravity on the moon.”
Jake and his fellow students are all talking a mile a minute about the moon bases they’ve put together working in small groups, proudly showing off the features they’ve constructed that would be necessary for survival, as well as some just-for-fun elements like the solar panels which power a television that allows the tiny Lego people to watch Netflix when they’re not busy with other lunar matters.
It’s all part of FIRST LEGO League Jr. Mission Moon, a non-competitive, interactive STEM (Science Technology, Engineering Mathematics) program geared toward elementary students, and through exploratory research, hands-on construction, and teamwork, students have learned how to thrive in this challenging environment, as well as in their own learning. There are also elements of coding as students work out how to get around and move objects on the moon by programming a robot’s movements.
“They’re applying knowledge of science and basic programming skills, but it’s everything else students can take away from this that makes it a truly worthwhile project,” said Rebecca Hurley, Grade 6 Teacher at Delhi, who has spearheaded the project. “It’s the computational thinking going on, the presentation skills, perseverance, group work and collaboration that support 21st-century competencies, and have allowed students to really engage in the learning and problem solving.”
An Expo, held on May 8, was the culminating result of the hard work, and students have come together with their moon bases to share what they learned with family, staff, and fellow students. Moving about the gymnasium are Grade 6 students with clipboards in hand – members of the school’s Robotics Team – tasked with assessing each base.
“We’re looking for specific details about why each team made the decisions they did in terms of how their moon bases were set up, and how they worked to solve challenges,” said Keaton, one of the student judges. “It’s been fun seeing everyone’s different approaches.”
Computational thinking includes elements of logic, algorithms, decomposition, patterns, and evaluation, and combined with the synergy of working together, students have proven they’re up to the challenge. The goals of projects such as this Lego challenge are echoed in Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan, and its Achievement indicator, which works to increase student understanding in a culture of high expectations.
“They’re the experts in this world they’ve created, and they can make it do anything they want with the skills they’ve built,” said Paula Rasokas, Principal at Delhi Public School. “This project shows what you are capable of when you’re interested and engaged in what you’re doing.”