I just returned from Washington DC where I presented two days of workshops for The Early Childhood Summer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Academy at Community Academy PCS on “Blocks as a Learning Tool: STEM in the Early Childhood Classroom.” Teachers in the workshop considered ways the medium of blocks can provide rich and meaningful opportunities for children to engage in scientific inquiry, mathematical thinking and engineering/design technology and support higher level thinking, conceptual development and creative risk-taking.  Although we mainly used Learning Materials Workshop blocks as these blocks were purchased for the participating teachers, the focus was on the use of all types of blocks.

Here are a few images from the workshop.

Focused exploration – thinking about measurement. Construct at least six buildings that are the same height. Remember that we do not have rulers so you will have to consider various ways to see that the buildings are equal in height.

Finding some ways to see if the buildings are of equal height.

Focused explorations – thinking about ramps –motion and speed. Construct two ramps – one where the rolling form goes to the end of the first table and one that goes to the end of the second table.

Testing some theories and looking at the variables that control speed.

Focused explorations: working on a specific design challenge. Design a machine or product that will make an improvement in safety or convenience. The design has to include a way of moving the turning base without actually touching it with your hands.

Working on a design for the “Quik Shop” - a drive-thru for people with disabilities to place their orders in their cars.”

Working on some design ideas for the “Aqua Swing 2012”, an invention to serve as a cooling station in a playground to be used on hot days.

Completed design for the “Caro-slide.” “Our idea consists of a carousel with seats and seat belts, a remote control to allow the parents to release the seatbelt , let the child get on the conveyor belt, stop at the slide and safely, slide off.”