By Jessica Fitzpatrick
A big part of being an educator is constantly finding new ways to bring life to teaching and to keep it exciting for students by always having something interesting in instruction. As a librarian, not only am I curating books and programs to create a safe space for students, but I also help teachers with their instruction and bring new innovative ideas to them. When I first discovered Imagination Playground’s Loose-Part Bones Set, I couldn’t help but contain my excitement and came up with so many different ways to help teachers use this kit in their classrooms. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use the Loose-Part Bones Play Set in instruction to hopefully spark some creativity in you!
A common misconception of the role of a librarian is that reading and books are our sole focus, but that is not true. I am always looking for new and fun ways to engage with math and science and to make my role on campus even more important by reaching more students. The very first thing that I did when I received my Loose-Part Bones Play Set was reach out to our math department and set up a collaborative lesson using the set. What the teachers and I came up with was to have students build dinosaurs using the set and then measure them using centimeters, inches, and feet. Once the students measured the dinos, they evaluated the different units and made the connection between the different measuring units and conversions. This became an effective way to introduce the unit to conversions from centimeters to inches and feet- it brought the math to life!
After approaching math with the Bones set, I went to our engineering class to set up a collaborative lesson with the teachers. Together, the teachers and I came up with two different STEM challenges to use with the set. The first was to have students in groups build a dinosaur and they were able to build any kind of dino that they wanted. Once their creature was built, the groups were given a variety of materials (cardboard, duct tape, popsicle sticks, rubber bands, straws, and paper clips) and given five minutes to build a structure that would be big enough and strong enough to crate their dinosaur. Once the five minutes were up, each group would take turns testing out their structure and then discussing what worked and what did not work with each structure.
The next STEM challenge was to give students one minute to build a dinosaur using the kit with different parameters. For example, build a dinosaur with two heads, build with only four pieces, etc. These STEM challenges were a great way to spark innovation in the students and were incredibly successful in getting students pumped up about learning.
The next group of teachers that I approached with the Bones set was the English classes. My English teachers are always up for something innovative and out of the box, so they were incredibly excited to use the set. We came up with three different mini-lessons using the Bones-
two were writing exercises and one was with our ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. The first writing exercise was letting students build their dinosaur and then write a short story about their creature and the adventures they go on. They also wrote about what would happen if
the dinosaur showed up at our school! The different responses were hilarious and the students got creative and wrote great stories about their dinosaurs.
The second writing exercise also included the students first constructing their dinosaur and then they wrote a procedural text about the different steps of building their creature. Once they were done writing, students passed their text to their neighbor, and then their neighbor built their dinosaur following their steps. It was a great assignment to highlight the importance of taking time to explain each step. Finally, the mini-lesson that we did with our ESL class was to build a dinosaur and then pick a book to read to it! Having the students read a book out loud built up their reading confidence and fluency. This was a super simple lesson but had a major impact!
I also set up the Loose-Part Bones set in my library in the makerspace. I love using this in the makerspace because it is a low-stress environment that allows the students to be creative and be themselves. With the dino set, I created challenge cards that were very similar to the STEM challenges that I did with the engineering classes, just to give students some inspiration if they need it. The Bones set has easily become one of the most popular makerspace stations in the library.
As an educator, the biggest thing that I look for when purchasing something for students is to make sure that the product is durable and long-lasting. Library budgets are often the smallest budgets on campuses but has to not only serve our students, but teachers as well, so making sure I am getting my money’s worth is very important. The best thing about the Loose-Part Bones Set is that the material used is very sturdy and can be used over and over numerous times and still seem brand new. Not only are they incredibly durable (even with kindergarten-aged students!) but they are very easy to clean! With so many different hands touching the different dino parts, making sure that it is easy to clean is vital.
Overall, the Loose-Part Bones Set is a great way to bring some innovation and creativity to your students in a fun way!