By Yessica Garcia, AmeriCorps Member, Harvard Pilgrim and Riverstone Co-Sponsored Team,
Serving at Beech Street Elementary School 

I never imagined that playing with legos would benefit the learning experience of fourth graders. FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is a combination of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and Legos to enhance STEM learning. Students from approximately 90 countries ranging from ages 9-14 are introduced to the excitement and fun of technology and science. Students are placed in teams of no more than ten. The teammates work together to program an autonomous robot to score points on a thematic playing surface, while finding solutions to a variety of challenges. Once a week the FLL coaches come to the fourth grade classrooms to guide and help answer any unanswered questions.

The fourth grade team at Beech Street Elementary School, among five other schools in the district, has been working since the beginning of the school year to prep the students to complete the first Challenge. By incorporating FLL into the curriculum, Beech Street is exposing boys and girls to critical thinking, collaboration and citizenship skills. Students will have access to computers in a rich engaging environment. They have the opportunity to experience a rigorous curriculum, which motivates them to think about future careers in math, engineering, and coding. About 80 fourth graders have been working rigorously in building a positive team dynamic while building their robot.

Students are ecstatic to be able to participate in such a unique activity. The students in my class have been working on teams of four to build their robot and become familiar with the software, by programing the robots and completing a variety of small challenges. Their creativity is endless, starting with their team names such as Mechanical Empire and Robo Revolution. Every week they get excited for the new challenges that FIRST LEGO League provides. Since FLL started a student has mentioned his interest in one day becoming an architect or engineer. They are building a foundation for their big dream through completing challenges, adding pieces to their robots and strengthening their teamwork skills. I hope one day these dreams become a reality. 

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