2019 Spring Block Champion – Stefanie Rothschild


Imagination Playground is proud to introduce you to Stefanie Rothschild who has been teaching elementary physical education in Bellingham, Massachusetts for 16 years.  She is passionate about being an innovator in her field, striving to integrate academics, character education, and wellness into her curriculum.  We congratulate her on her work with children, and her innovative approach to delivering educational programming.  Read more below about her experience with the Big Blue Blocks, examples of her lessons, and see video and images of the programs in action.

What school/district do you work for?

Stall Brook Elementary School (K-3) in Bellingham, MA

Tell us a little bit about you and your role in your school.

This my 16th year teaching elementary physical education in Bellingham.  My passion is to be an innovator in my field by continuously creating new units and curriculum.  I strive to show how much my field has evolved to include academic integration, cooperative learning, character education, and wellness.  I am driven to showcase P.E’s unique ability to holistically address the whole child, as well as enrich all aspects of their elementary education experience.  Everyday I set out to create meaningful learning opportunities to help my students’ build a strong foundation of physical, mental, social, and emotional health.  I am extremely lucky to work in a district that gives me the support and freedom to be creative and confident in creating transformative lessons. Additionally, I strive to help students develop a growth mindset and recognize that obstacles, challenges, and failures provide the greatest learning opportunities.  I believe that learning must extend beyond the immediate moment and that it should offer each student skills and concepts for a lifetime of use. Furthermore, I believe that all students have the right to reach their potential, and my goal has been to provide an opportunity for such achievement.

How long have you had the Big Blue Blocks?

Our school received the blocks in October and I integrated them into my P.E program for the month of January.

Were you part of the decision making to bring the Blocks to your school?

Yes, two fellow colleagues approached me about my thoughts on these blocks. They were curious of my opinion and whether I thought they could be an asset to the school. I immediately started thinking of all the ways I could create a physical education curriculum around them.  I gave them my full support and was optimistic that our school would receive a grant.

How did your school fund the Blocks?

Our school was awarded a grant by the Bellingham Education Foundation, a non profit organization dedicated to enriching, enhancing, and supporting education which includes pre-k – 12th grade classrooms.  We share the Blocks with another school in the District. 

Tell us a little bit about the P.E and STEM programming that you demonstrate in the video and how you came up with it.

I am a true believer in the “Evolution of Physical Education.” Gone should be the days of dodgeball and programs that only cater to the athletic child.  I constantly try to find ways to show how my field has evolved. This year, one of my goals was to show how STEM and Makerspace can be incorporated into Physical Education. I saw implementing Imagination Playground and its “larger than life” block equipment system as an amazing opportunity to promote movement that coincided with cognitive and social development.  I looked online at the website and saw videos showing the power of these blocks to encourage child-directed and open-ended learning. It was incredible to see its ability to unlock children’s creative spirit. What I wanted to do was come up with ways that I could further use these blocks in physical education lessons. I wanted students to participate in innovative hands-on activities fostering skills such as creativity, communication, teamwork, decision-making, problem-solving, higher-level thinking, and collaboration. Physically, I saw these blocks as a great means for my students to improve their fine and gross motor skills.  In addition, I wanted to provide opportunities to intertwine social emotional learning as a way to enhance positive peer relationships. A large focus was for students to be able to develop, implement, and communicate their ideas. Furthermore, I wanted them to be open and responsive to new perspectives, incorporate group input, and feedback into their projects. I could not get over the originality and inventiveness in the students’ creations. I witnessed them experience firsthand that creativity and innovation are a process of successes and failures and saw them make meaningful connections throughout the unit.

Example of Lessons:

I had students design and build “Imagination Playground Go Karts” that they got to race.  This project included examining pieces, drawing out a design, and constructing before testing out their project.  After the race, students reflected on how they could improve their design.

In a fitness and wellness themed activity, students worked in pairs to design and create “Imagination Playground Exercise Equipment.” Their goal was to create something that would motivate their classmates to be active and want to be healthy.

I used the big blue blocks for a partner trust activity to help students work on communication and build relationships.  Students had to guide their blindfolded classmate around the maze of blocks in this team building activity.

In a winter-themed large group activity, students were divided into two teams to create snow forts.  All of the pieces were in the middle of the gym and students had to run relay style to collect the pieces they needed to build their fort.  Then they had to work together to come up with their fort design and construct. After projects were complete, groups gave the other groups a tour of their fort.

In a small group activity, students had to create a structure in which a ball could move along a track from a starting point to an ending point.  If successful, students were challenged to come up with another design or increase the length or height of their track. In this activity, I filmed the students using a slow motion camera and the look on their faces when we re-watched their success was priceless.

As an extension of their Imagination Playground thinking, I had students create their own big blue block shapes using their bodies.  This promoted flexibility, thinking about shapes, and being creative. Emphasis was placed on the “mind body connection” and helping students develop body awareness, build concentration, and increase confidence.

What is your favorite thing about the big Blue Blocks?

My students achieved so many incredible goals! They were able to use their creativity, work collaboratively, and develop multiple skills through play.  Students got to be creative in what they constructed, but I also had the wonderful opportunity to be creative in finding ways to use these amazing big blue blocks to create innovative PE lessons!

What is the biggest challenge with the Big Blue Blocks?

Storage. Packing up all of the pieces into the two carts.

Ideally, we would want more time in the school day for kids to be able to utilize these blocks.

What would you tell another educator that was considering buying the Blocks?

The blocks are an excellent means to enhance social and emotional learning, build a positive learning environment, and help teach young children valuable life skills.  Not only does Imagination Playground allow students to think creatively and work collaboratively, but it fosters relationships and memories.

Is there anything else you want to share about the Blocks?

I took the extra step to film and create students involved in the Imagination Playground activities and this was incredibly worth it because it allowed our school community to see all the magical moments unfold. I loved making videos that showed the true magic created when students worked together to explore what their imaginations could do! I also recommend creating an Imagination Playground bulletin board to highlight all the wonderful goals students achieve.  Students loved walking by the board and reminiscing in all their projects and accomplishments together.