Two Dublin schools, Malahide & Portmarnock Educate Together and the Central Model Infants’ School on Marlborough Street in the city centre, have been selected to take part in a global pilot of a new FIRST LEGO League education initiative, called Junior Discovery. Developed for children aged four to six years, FIRST LEGO League Junior Discovery is a non-competitive, hands-on STEM programme ideally suited for junior and senior infant children, working in teams of four.
Only four countries globally were chosen to take part in the FIRST LEGO League pilot, and the two Dublin schools will each have up to seven teams of four senior infants children involved. Through the pilot programme, the schools have direct input to the future development of Junior Discovery before its global launch next year. The programme is run in Ireland by Irish education specialists, Learnit, in partnership with Professor Deirdre Butler from DCU’s Institute of Education.
The LEGO FIRST acronym, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, outlines the aim of the education initiative, which encourages children to think like scientists and engineers, developing hands-on practical solutions to real world issues.
The Junior Discovery programme presents an exciting challenge that will ignite the creativity of young children, according to Ross Maguire of Learnit.
“Teams of four design a model and make it move, learning basic engineering and early STEAM skills. They document their work and celebrate their achievements, all the time operating under the FIRST core values of celebrating discovery and teamwork and having fun”. Programme work takes place during class time and the school hosts a Discovery Event to showcase the work to family, students and the wider community.
The two Irish pilot schools have educational support resources from Learnit and DCU and receive LEGO equipment and materials valued at over €2,500, enabling them to embed the programme within the school, so that all children can engage with the STEM ideas, skills and principles.
The final Junior Discovery programme sessions will take place on Monday November 26 next in the DCU LEGO Education Innovation Studio to showcase and celebrate the exciting work the two schools are doing.
The importance of having this initiative directly linked with the DCU LEGO Education Innovation Studio is highlighted by Professor Deirdre Butler who commented: “The opportunity to be centrally involved in this initiative contributes to our goal of creating an interactive learning hub that will help DCU student teachers and Irish schools develop innovative and creative approaches to designing learning environments which ignite a passion for learning STEM concepts and skills from early childhood education right through to third level. By adopting Lego’s playful learning tools, with a ‘Hands-on Minds-on’ mindset in a supportive learning environment, all students can develop key competencies, such as creative thinking, problem-solving, team-working and communication.”
Learnit has introduced the FIRST LEGO League concept to schools in Ireland in the past three years, rolling out competitions for students aged from 11 to 16 years in the main league competition and a Junior League designed for those aged from six to 10. Over 70 teams will participate in four separate Irish tournaments this year.
The new Junior Discovery programme is a non-competitive introduction for younger children.
In developing partnerships with both industry and third level institutions, like Dublin City University, Learnit aims to deliver STEM projects for primary, post-primary and eventually third level institutions, increasing STEM awareness in society and encouraging young people to study STEM subjects to meet urgent demands for graduates in Ireland’s workforce.