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Collaboration is the Gateway to STEM

It is common for modern-day companies to assign tasks to teams comprised of individuals that reside oceans apart from each other. If children are expected to one day work in diverse global teams, they must develop teaming and collaboration skills that will allow them to be successful in these situations. They must build tolerance, respect and enthusiasm for diversity, including diversity of creative thinking and problem-solving styles, and be able to move from individual ideas to a common solution that expresses a group’s collective creativity and intelligence. Simply placing children in groups is only one small piece of giving them a teaming experience. It is through careful observation, coaching, reflection, feedback and being given opportunities for adaptation that they will build the skills necessary to be effective team members in the 21st century.

As students work in teams, they’re learning to communicate, respect the ideas of others, and understand why everybody’s role is important. These are essential aspects not only of classroom collaboration but also of being part of society. Good teamwork improves students’ social skills. It makes them more self-confident. It even reduces bullying. And it helps children to go on to become successful adults. That’s why we made teamwork, communication, and collaboration fundamental components of Brick League.

Our league offers the opportunity to get children engaging in civil discourse, deliberating, debating, building consensus, compromising, communicating effectively, and giving presentations. Involving students every step of the way in thinking about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how they could do it better helps to embed the skills that they are developing. We encourage children to work together, or to explain to other children how they are solving the challenge. The important thing about reflection done this way is that it’s a form of self-assessment. We’re not grading the children, and there are no correct or incorrect responses. The purpose of the discussion is for children to think about the investigation processes and to share and reflect on different ideas.

When looking for the right STEM learning activities for kids, caregivers often focus on the projects themselves. While this is definitely important, it’s not the only consideration. The environment the children learn in is equally important to facilitate STEM understanding. Studies show that collaborative work is highly effective for kids learning STEM. That’s right — say goodbye to the image of kids sitting independently, quietly focused at their desks. STEM learning and group learning go hand in hand. We love encouraging this aspect of Brick League. If a children is struggling we suggest that they travel around to other childrens work spaces to see what they are doing, and build on it from there. This offers social skills and collaborative effort to solve challenges. STEM skills can be complex and difficult for students to learn. Rather than feeling isolated when misunderstanding material, working in a group helps promote understanding.

Its time for STEM education to kick up a notch – to look not only at individual subjects, but also to tap into the naturally collaborative nature of children, help them think in a more systems-oriented way and learn how to work together across multiple disciplines in order to solve complex problems. By teaching collaboration – and using collaborative tools – we can bring every child into the problem-solving fold. If we want to attract the best and brightest minds into the fields that will move us forward and solve global issues, we must look to ALL of the population. In education, when we shift the focus from STEM as subject matter toward a more problem-solving and systems-thinking orientation, collaboration is what allows us to bring a much broader group of students, with fresh ideas and approaches, to the STEM table.

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