Today we get to work with puzzles! You only get 20 planks, and they all look the same. How many objects can you create with those 20 planks? A lot. How much fun will you have? Again…a lot!
The skinny: This was a very simple program to put together. I ordered six sets of KEVA Brain Builders from Amazon for $15 a set. This was much more than the $0.30 per child budget that I have been working with. However, these sets were made available to us through a grant. Also, I am able to use them over and over again. So, in time, the price for these sets will go down to less than $0.30 because of the repeated use.
While I bought the KEVA Brain Builders set, they also sell a KEVA Jr Brain Builders set, which would probably be great for younger kids.
I tried to keep only 2-3 kids working on each set, which is the best number. The Brain Builders come in a black carrying case. There are 20 planks, and 30 builder cards. The cards show what your structure needs to look like from the front, the side, and the top. On the flip side of the card is a photo of the structure when it is made.
I tried this with a middle school visit, and again as a Kids’ STEM Workshop. Both went incredibly well. The kids intuitively know how to work with these sets, although they are challenging. They are also a great way to get 2-3 students working together to solve a common challenge.
STEM at Work: Thinking in Three Dimensions
This is from the Brain Builder introduction card, which I thought sums up the STEM experience very consistently: “The ability to understand representational drawings is a critical skill for children and adults. Whether following illustrations to assemble a new toy or new shelving for the family room, we all need to be able to translate two-dimensional information into actual useful objects.”
Cost: $15 per set on Amazon.
Setup: Arrange sets on tables so that 2-3 students can use each set.
How it went:
This was a very fun program. I did not have any introduction, I just introduced the sets, had the kids divide up, and let them loose. They all began with the Beginner Level cards, working their way up to Intermediate and Expert. The kids worked excitedly. Some of them would get stuck and ask me to help them, but I challenged them to work the problem and solve it themselves. I would however if they were really stumped, show them how to turn the planks so they looked similar to the drawing. When they thought they had solved the puzzle, they could turn the card over, but not before. That would be cheating.
This was a super low prep program. The only downside was that the sets are expensive. And, you really want only 2-3 students on each set. However, with a little investment, they are a great additional to any programming supply cabinet. They are also a fun activity to bring when asked to do a class visit, and you need something quick to prep, very fun, and easy for all kids to get into.