Last month, Irving ISD and Johnston Elementary School proudly played host to visitors from LEGO Education, who came to see firsthand how our students are using LEGO as part of their curriculum.

“LEGO Education reached out about featuring us for a customer success story because of the way we have integrated LEGO into our Tier 1 curriculum through our STEM Connections Program,” says Erin O’Connor, STEM and Innovation Specialist at Irving ISD. “We were excited and onboard for them to come out and visit! When we got word that the President of LEGO Education International, Victor Saeijs, would be flying in from Denmark, it helped add another level of excitement.”

Throughout their visit on November 16, representatives from LEGO Education witnessed students engaging in STEM lessons. Fourth graders learned all about the pinball machine prohibition of the 1940s. They were able to leverage their text excerpts to make connections to modern-day issues such as excessive video game playing and too much screen time. Afterward, the learning continued as students were able to design, code and build their own LEGO pinball machines.

“Our goal is for all of our students to be able to experience it, learn from it and get their creative juices going,” says O’Connor. “We are one of the few districts in the area that has a STEM curriculum for all of our elementary school students. It’s not something that only happens at our STEM campuses or as part of an after-school program. That sets us apart. We have also found ways to integrate it into the content. So it helps to support the TEKS that our teachers are already teaching.”

In the library, kindergarten students also partook in STEM activities as they used LEGO to learn vocabulary words, assemble a train set and work on recognizing patterns through the use of robots.

“It’s a dream come true for a lot of us working in this department and Irving ISD. We are able to provide these lessons to every child, kindergarten through fifth grade, through middle school and high school,” says James Tiggeman, Director of STEM and Innovation at Irving ISD. “Every child deserves to be exposed to STEM concepts and STEM learning so that they can make those decisions for what career and what type of life they want to pursue.”

Saeijs and the rest of the visitors from LEGO Education came away feeling inspired and hopeful for what this type of integration can do for students not just in Irving ISD, but all around the world.

“The way you teach, and the way you bring in hands-on learning to make learning fun and relevant – it is one of the best examples I’ve seen around the globe,” says Saeijs. “It’s hugely inspiring, and it’s actually an embodiment of our vision of how we at LEGO Education would like to bring learning to children.”

“What I saw in Irving ISD is something that every child deserves the right to be exposed to – caring, qualified, motivated educators at every level – from the superintendent to the school principal, to the classroom teacher – that deliver a learning experience to students where they are valued and have the freedom to be successful,” says Todd Zorros, Regional Director of Sales for LEGO Education.

This unique learning experience for our Irving ISD students certainly did not happen overnight. Several years of planning, implementation and cooperation had to take place before it became what it is today.

 “Looking back at the past two to three years of piloting, going through the lessons, working out the kinks – getting to see it come to fruition has been amazing,” says Sylvia Huber, Digital Learning Coordinator for Irving ISD. “This was a truly collaborative effort between our Digital Learning team and various other departments like Curriculum and Instruction, STEM and Innovation, and Library Services. Everyone played a part and was invested.”

As students progress through the curriculum, Irving ISD’s Digital Learning team anticipates significant shifts in our student’s growth mindset, problem-solving, collaboration, willingness to fail forward and not being afraid to try new things.

“As far as next steps for our department and for our district, we are just going to keep getting bigger and better,” says Tiggeman. “Among other things, we are in the process of designing our brand new STEM schools at Barton and Farine. The lessons and ideas that we develop there will eventually trickle down to every elementary school student across Irving ISD.”

It’s safe to say that not only is the future bright for STEM here in Irving ISD but don’t expect this to be the last you hear of our collaboration with LEGO. As part of their visit, LEGO Education interviewed our students, teachers and district personnel and is in the process of producing a video project. Stay tuned to our social media channels as we will be sure to share it as soon as it is released.

“Superintendent Hernandez told us that her students don’t fit into a box and we saw an excellent and amazing example of that,” says Caitlin Boline, Solution Architect at LEGO Education. ”The team here is incredible, and they are truly doing amazing things for kids. We can’t wait to come back because we are so excited about what’s to come!”