Tell us about your current teaching experience.
I teach 4-6th grade science at the Cathedral School and I coach the Lego Robotics team there. This is the 1st year I’ve been on the Cathedral faculty; before that I taught science at The Dalton School and Manhattan Country School. I also teach at Hunter College in the Science for Educators program.
How did you discover littleBits? What drew you to our product/company?
I went to the Teacher Discovery Workshop at littleBits to see what it was all about. I was really intrigued by using the Bits modules to build with common materials like paper cups, cardboard and string. I used to build all kinds of cardboard dollhouses and toy furniture and pop up cards when I was young, but I didn’t ever include electricity in my projects. Building with found materials was a pastime of mine.
How do you use littleBits as a 21st century STEM/STEAM teaching and learning tool?
Kids like to build and interact with the topics they study in class. littleBits could be an extension to an existing electricity unit, or introduced as an engineering project before electricity is covered. The nice part about it is that everyone can use the modules, regardless of their knowledge of circuitry.
My Hunter College students insisted that an engineering project would be challenging enough, but with the added component of electricity, it would be impossible. They all had minimal knowledge of circuits, so surely there was no way this would come to fruition. In class, students began testing out the materials and they had to build an assigned project. Two students who were assigned to make a musical instrument were special education teachers who taught hard of hearing and deaf students. Their musical instrument not only made noise, but lit up and vibrated so that their deaf students would be able to experience the instrument.
What is your favorite littleBits project?
I really liked the instrument the students made, but my favorite is an elevator made by a 2nd grade student in my after school program last year. See the video below.
Describe littleBits in your own 3 words:
If you could challenge your students to make anything with any amount of littleBits, what would you have them create?
I would love to have them create a Rube Goldberg marble machine. It’s hard to explain to kids how/what a Rube Goldberg machine does, so I call it a marble mover. They could first create a track, and then devices to make the marble change direction and travel up, down and around different planes and areas as part of their unit on simple machines.
What advice can you offer teachers who are new to littleBits?
So often we expect children to try something new, fail, try again and then learn, but as adults/educators, we’re very comfortable with our knowledge base and often stick with teaching an annual unit. Our routines make our world “safe” and we are resistant to trying new things out of fear of failure. Instead, I teach adults, students, everyone else I can to be a risk-taker. To try new things and to fail spectacularly. It’s when we get back up from our failures and try again that we actually learn, in big and in small ways. But we’d never learn anything if we start off afraid of making a mistake. We’re supposed to be bad at something the first time we try it. My advice is to be a risk-taker. Make an attempt and make your expectations for students your actual personal practice. Fearing new things or fear of having to learn new things is the opposite of being a teacher- be fearless!
Stay tuned for Lindsay’s STEAM Content Boards which will be featured this month.
Lindsay Velazco has been pursuing science education in all of its forms for most of her life. She teaches at The Cathedral School in New York City where she guides her students to cultivate their passion for investigation and to grow creatively. She holds a Master’s Degree from Hunter College, where she has returned to teach summer classes in science education for teachers. Like Newton’s Third Law, Lindsay’s enthusiasm passes on to many around her. She is proud to have been a summer curator at littleBits.