UNION — K’NEX? It’s not what you think. Sixth grade science students in Mrs. Leigh Anne Arthur’s Class at Sims Middle School are going to find out what it means soon. For those of us wondering, K’NEX is a construction set and K’NEX Education is a curriculum developed to support a broad range of subjects and activities for elementary, middle and high schools. The lessons all tie into the state science standards and will reinforce classroom learning by providing hands-on experience. K’NEX provides dynamic models which motivate students to learn along with hands-on learning opportunities. Students will be able to build replicas of real-world machines and structures.
The kit for K’NEX was generously donated by Union business Parts and Machinery, Inc., a fabrication shop and major supplier to General Electric. The company has donated $900 with which to buy more kits and is considering expansion of the program. Parts and Machinery, Inc.’s president, Kerry Riser, asked Mrs. Arthur how the kits empower students. She told him, “They empower the students by giving them the chance to succeed and to feel successful. Even kids who didn’t have a positive school experience were excited by these projects.”
Mrs. Arthur has used K’NEX kits in her classroom for about five years. “Students love them! The work provides meaningful activities for all students — girls and boys. Also, behavior problems decreased dramatically and test scores skyrocketed.” In past years, Mrs. Arthur’s classes have built solar cars and a 16-foot roller coaster.
Her sixth grade classroom was basically turned into a shop where kids had “build time.” They were allowed to work on their projects at specific times of the day with the understanding that they would clean up after themselves. Mrs. Arthur stressed, “It’s not play time. It’s applying science lessons to their own innovations and what the future may possibly hold.”
Within this kit, students envision their own projects and research them. The students’ ideas are the origin of whatever is built. One of the goals of the kit is to teach problem solving and logical thinking. “Higher order thinking is reinforced,” said Mrs. Arthur. “What we’re trying to do in school is to prepare [students] for their future — the real world — to give them more of a vested interest in their education. These lessons make them want to know more because they have an actual product they manipulate and they get results from their own ideas.”
Kristi Sommer is a learning specialist at Sims Middle School.