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Shea Johnson, staff photo
Christian Renteria, 12, works with family members to complete a family portrait using BrickLab bricks Tuesday evening in the auditorium at Thomson Elementary.

Build and learn

BrickLab kits teach Thomson students and family

Staff Writer
Each BrickLab:

• 3-8 - grades activities are appropriate for

• 30 - students who can work concurrently

• 52 - number of lessons included

• 54 - project hours worth of activities

• 208 - number of multi-faceted activities

• 595 - cost in dollars

source: STEMfinity.com

BARSTOW• Family members joined students at Thomson Elementary Tuesday evening to play with, and learn from, BrickLab kits, which the school recently purchased with funds received from a donation by Food4Less.

The BrickLab kits consist of building blocks and accompanying lesson plans for each grade level, which have already been tested out in the classroom. Tuesday was an opportunity for parents to see firsthand how their kids interact with the bricks — and to join in on the build.

Since becoming a STEM focused magnate this year, Thomson Elementary has increased emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math, Principal Theresa Gonzales said. The expectation is that these subjects will compliment normal curriculum.

“We want the students to realize all the curriculum is integrated,” Gonzales said.

For instance, one child built a Civil War ship — social studies. One girl built a butterfly — science. One lesson plan named “spatial explorations” called for students to know the dimensions of each brick — math.

Christina Tompkins, one of the lead teachers for the BrickLab program, explained how her fifth-graders used color-coded bricks, each representing a part of speech (noun, verb, adjective, etc.), to construct sentences for language arts study.

“It’s hands on. They get to use that creative side they unfortunately don’t use very often,” Tompkins said. “The students really seem to enjoy it.”

Sixth-grader Christian Renteria, 12, seemed thrilled that his family decided to participate.

“It’s great that they come out and help,” he said. “It’s me and my family working together.”

He and his family, including three younger cousins, built a family portrait and then added the word “Thomson” in front with additional bricks.

The activities included some structured and free exploration, which was part of the once-a-month parent involvement night that Thomson Elementary employs.

“I have to be supportive of the kids' education. ‘Hey, mom can learn something too,’” Qiana Grier said. Grier, who has one daughter in sixth grade and a nephew in pre-school, said her daughter was excited to show her how to follow the lesson plan.

America Maldonado has three children at the school.

“They were, like, ‘can we go? can we go? can we go?’” she said when speaking of her motivation for participating. “It’s a big change from other years and it’s something new,” she said. “For my kids, it’s exciting.”

Shellie Crowley, another lead teacher of the BrickLab program, admitted the faculty — who were trained on it in December — are still working on figuring it all out. However, she already sees the benefits.

“It’s helping the students cooperate with each other,” she said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to do art, learn motor skills and tie it into our common curriculum.”


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