A new goal that began in Vanguard Charter Academy’s middle school has grown into a school-wide initiative known as “Bring the Fun in 2021.”
Courtney Minnema, dean of middle school at Vanguard, has responded to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by encouraging students and teachers to focus on areas of life that bring joy and fun. Her goal is in sharing the idea that “there is fun to be had in school, along with learning during a pandemic. Little things equal big fun,” Minnema explained.
The school took this to heart on Jan. 28 by participating in two national celebratory days, National Lego Day and National Kazoo Day. In the days leading up to these national celebrations, students were challenged to build a Lego creation that fits in a shoebox and bring it into school to be put on display.
Virtual students submitted pictures of the creations they built at home, which were added to the displayed collection inside the school. Many teachers took pictures and recorded videos of the display, walking through the Lego creations to share with their virtual students as well as those learning in-person. Several classes even joined the festivities live from Google Meet.
This play-based learning reaps benefits for all grade-level learners, allowing the opportunity to learn hands-on. Research suggests that children are born to learn through play. In fact, Lego and other construction toys can improve a wide range of mental aptitudes in young children, such as spatial intelligence and hand-eye coordination.
National Lego Day has been celebrated every year on Jan. 28 since the day the inventor of Lego submitted his patent for the original Lego brick in 1958. Famous for its ability to spark creativity, each Lego set contains trillions of combinations. Two eight-pipped Lego bricks, for example, could be combined 24 different ways.
“Creativity was evident with all grade levels for sure,” said Minnema. “The size of some of the projects were larger with older students. Some used kits, and others built from scratch. Some told a story or favorite thing to do while others showed their love of Star Wars,” she explained. Baby Yoda was a fan-favorite throughout the school.
From fine-tuning their Lego designs to finding the tune with a cherished classic instrument, the Kazoo, middle school students were given their own Kazoo at dismissal. Minnema shared that many students needed help learning how to play and thought their instrument was broken.
Teachers enjoyed showing them the ropes as students prepared to head home for the day. Admittedly, Minnema joked that the Kazoos may not have been music to the students’ families’ ears!