Faith Bongiorno

South Carolina, USA

TOC

Kids as Stakeholders

How do you get a FIRST LEGO League team to pick a meaningful project and find a good solution? It has to be organic and have full stakeholder buy in.

No step-by-step instructions:

For my rookie and elementary age students, the project is a challenge to step outside of the box. Our students are so used to being told exactly how teachers want each step completed that they are lost when it comes to project. I issue them small challenges. For example, last season, I told them to find and bring in a news article about problems with the human water cycle. Then, the student had to present that article to the team. This goes on for several weeks before they naturally start leaning towards one problem over another. Their solution may already exist, so my challenge is for them to think about how they can improve it. I ask lots of questions. Sometimes I end up reframing the question to get them to think differently.

For this past season, when all team members were on board with the problem, presenting and testing of the solutions became fun for them. Once the project hits the fun stage (from field trips to sharing) the team does it all. I am a cheerleader and gummy bear provider at that point.

How to begin empowerment:

For example, I will be coaching a middle school girl’s team during the INTO ORBIT season. Now, we don’t know the ins and outs of the challenge, but we do know it’s about space. We utilize Google classroom to facilitate discussion and sharing among the team. Right now, they have two challenges posted. One is pictured below. The girls place their initials after each idea. They decide which area they want to research. They are stakeholders in this process.

Platforms we use include Edmodo, Classdojo, and Google Classroom. I like Google Classroom because it easily interfaces with other google applications. The kids can operate with little guidance, therefore it’s empowering them to be responsible and get work posted.

Having the research started ahead of time will allow them to have meaningful discussion when they meet on August 1st (the INTO ORBIT Challenge release date). Being accountable to each other forces them all to contribute.

Why not just give them the answers?

FIRST LEGO League is challenging. Often, it’s one of the most challenging activities for kids who are used to instant gratification and adults not allowing them to be critical thinkers. I have had parents not understand why I don’t swoop in and make things “perfect” for the team. The whole point of FIRST LEGO League is to help them become critical thinkers. The coach’s role is to facilitate the discussion, while giving the students room to think for themselves. So, let the team take time developing their project idea and solution. Let them be the stakeholders