Saturday, November 22, 2008

Growth and Learning....

FIRST LEGO League is all about the kids – learning, applying what was learned, growing and having fun. But as our State Competition draws near and we enter Thanksgiving week (also known among the Microbots as Microbot Bootcamp week), as all the kids and coaches and parents get ready for the last push of a very intense fall, and as we all just keep saying “we just need to hold on until December 7th and then we can sleep” it’s good to step back and look at what the year’s been about.

I’ve been especially amazed by the growth in the kids this year. What they’ve accomplished this year on all fronts they couldn’t have even dreamed of last year – or come close to even imagining their first year in FLL!

We’ve seen the growth physically – from deepening voices to acne breakouts, bigger feet, kids who can look me in the eyes, the need for deodorant, and brains that shut off and fall asleep as their bodies focus on growing.

We seen growth in general knowledge and learning – huge leaps in skills in robot engineering and design, programming, researching, and writing; learning new skills like website design and survey development; conquering computer applications like PowerPoint, Word, Photoshop, and Kompozer; making full use of online tools like SurveyMonkey, NING, Noodlebib, Writeboard and Lego Digital Designer (whose capacity really maxes out with a 3000 piece design set).

There has been huge growth in team work – understanding how to brainstorm positively, how to communicate as a team online, by phone, and in person throughout the week, week after week, how each individual piece of the puzzle has to fit together to make a much bigger whole, how to work individually, in pairs, in threes, and as an entire group, how to fill in for each other when things fall apart, how “Noob” may be a positive phrase or a negative phrase.

In the specific research project they’ve chosen, they’ve also grown in long term more intangible knowledge and skills – how small the world really is as they watched their website statistics count up the visitors from state after state to continent after continent, how they can make a difference globally as people responded about water issues from all parts of the globe, how they can write emails to large, anonymous websites for permission to use photos and get real people answering them with positive encouragement and enthusiasm, how they can talk to state legislators about different issues and have them listen.

And in long term individual organizational skills, they’ve each learned a lot this year about how important the tiny details are in research and programming, how to push on when they get tired, how to follow through to the end after deciding to aim extremely high in both research and programming, how to keep going the direction they need to head despite the differing opinions of the coaches, and how to work with deadline after deadline in an almost overwhelming process.

These kids are just 11, 12 and 13 but because of their team work, their spirit, and their unflagging friendship and desire to work and play together day after day, week after week, they have the (almost always!) unflagging support of 12 parents and 8 tag-along siblings as they keep moving forward. I doubt that any of the parents or coaches could keep up the pace if it wasn’t for the desire, the growth, and the huge benefits we see that these 6 kids gain from each other and the FLL projects. Growth can be painful, frustrating and hard sometimes but it can also be a beautiful thing to watch and be a part of!

Now… to just push on for the next 2 weeks to try to get everything done before competition…!!!!

Mrs. W (Research Coach)

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