Cloverbuds worked with Legos to develop STEM skills.
Cloverbuds in Grenada County develop STEM skills
Story by Leah Barbour • Photos by Kevin Hudson
It was the summer of 2018. Grenada Elementary School teacher Dianne Brewer—a classroom veteran of more than 25 years—was working at the local Yalobusha County library, and she saw a group of 5-year-olds enthusiastically participating in a 4-H LEGO Engineering lesson.
Video by Brian Utley
While the children were too young to be considered 4-H’ers—5-, 6-, and 7-year-olds who participate in the youth development program are called Cloverbuds—they were not too young to learn and apply engineering-design concepts with LEGO.
Brewer immediately realized her kindergartners could flourish with that kind of instruction.
“We would read a book, which ties in literacy, and each lesson is specific,” she explains. “If we were reading about bridges, they would make bridges that day. If we were reading about boats, they had to make a boat. The children would hear about a topic, build it, and add to it.
“The LEGO Engineering curriculum plays to their strengths, reinforces their strengths,” Brewer affirms.
So she asked the local 4-H agent to introduce 4-H LEGO Engineering as part of regular classroom instruction in Brewer’s classroom. Because the Mississippi State University Extension Service, which delivers the 4-H program, has offices in every county, the Extension agent in Yalobusha County recommended Brewer contact Grenada County Agent Jan Walton.
Brewer contacted Walton, and the rest, as they say, was history.
“The LEGO Engineering curriculum plays to their strengths.”
— DIANNE BREWER
Some classrooms at Grenada Elementary are “looped” for two years with a single teacher. Thus, the students from Brewer’s kindergarten class during the 2018–19 school year have mostly returned and are now in first grade with her.
And they love 4-H LEGO Engineering!
On Fridays, as the school schedule allows, Walton comes to the school at 12:30 p.m. She, along with Extension office associate Brenda Clark, delivers the engineering lesson and shares a snack with the kids.
When Walton walks into the classroom, children burst into excited chatter. As Walton gets out the book, which introduces the concepts of the day’s lesson with an age-appropriate story, children begin to raise their hands for the one question that cannot wait: “Can we build now?” Walton reads through the story, answering each impatient request to begin building with patience. She acknowledges each enthusiastic student, yet she returns focus to the story and STEM concepts suggested.
“I always tell the children they are smart. The way the lesson is designed helps them be creative—all 22 of the students,” Walton laughs. “Everything is possible because they’ve learned it’s possible.”
Once the lesson is complete, the plastic crates of LEGOs are opened. Everyone begins building. They choose colors and shapes to design the project they’ve been asked to create.
Then, as the teacher, agent, and office associate check in with individual Cloverbuds at each work table, students begin to exceed their own expectations. Shy children gain confidence. Kids admire one another’s work and accept suggestions. They show each other their creations and improve their own designs based on their peers’ work.
Brewer emphasizes that her students are learning the educational concepts they’ll need to be successful, and they’re learning it in a fun way.
“You can see how much they love it,” she says. “All teachers should work with 4-H to bring LEGO Engineering to their classrooms.”