Legos used to cultivate creativity at Jefferson Elementary

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Nick Crow
Friday, July 18, 2014

JANESVILLE — The Young Engineers program at Jefferson Elementary is attempting to teach third- and fourth-graders things they may have "unlearned." teacher Amanda Werner said.

"I think sometimes creativity can be unlearned," Werner said. "I think most children are creative until they are specifically taught how to do something. Programs like this spark their creativity and keep it alive."

This is the first year for the class. During the week-long course, students use Legos to build complex projects and follow instructions while working in groups.

Classmates Ernesto Galindo, 9, and Charlie Claas, 8, from St. John Vianney Catholic School in Janesville teamed up to build a dragster Friday.

"He makes half of it, and I make the other half," Ernesto said. "We each work on our own half ,and it makes one big thing."

The students are able to work within the instructions while adding dashes of their own individuality, Werner said.

"It's not meant to be rigid," Werner said. "The program allows for them to follow directions and model how to make their project but also allows for them to create. What is the most fun is to see kids stretch their imaginations."

Paul Stengel, curriculum program support teacher for the Janesville School District, said the 25 student course filled up within the first day. A second course was created to meet demand, which also filled up, he said. The courses were open to students from throughout the area and not just Janesville School District students, he said.

"It's unbelievable how well this was received," Stengel said. "It's very cool that parents and kids were excited about it."

Other first-time camps held this week were for fifth- and sixth-graders at Washington Elementary and seventh- and eighth-graders at Edison Middle, Stengel said.

"They each have their own book and each get to build their own mechanism," Werner said. "Every kid is busy all the time, which is a great thing."

Monroe Elementary fourth-grader Emily Molidor and Harrison Elementary fourth-grader Devon Krause were fully engaged in making their "dogbot" Friday.

"I like that we get to build whatever we want and learn about lots and lots of things," Emily said. "Even though I'm a book worm, I like this class a lot. We get to work together, so we really like to build."

"Yesterday, we built a street sweeper," Devon said. "Today a dog robot. We get to be creative and let our imagination run wild."

Werner said the class is still a learning experience for both teachers and students. Next year she hopes more girls signing up, she said.

"I can't think of a better way to learn about engineering," Werner said. "Especially for the girls. They can definitely hold their own with the boys."

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