CQUniversity Bundaberg graduate Shontelle Lewis is passionate about empowering young learners and for more than a decade she’s had Lego bricks on hand to help.
Studying her Bachelor of Learning Management (Primary) at Bundaberg in 2008, Shontelle joined her lecturer Dr Rose-Marie Thrupp to run the Coasting into Robotics (CIR) program through Kepnock High School.
“I started to look at Lego as a tool for learning across the primary curriculum, and not just a standalone robotics subject,” she said.
“For example, I might organise children to write a narrative and build a robotics device to act out the story as they read from their text.”
Shontelle went on to co-create a project which gave pre-service teachers robotics knowledge to implement classroom lessons.
After graduating in 2010 to teach at Sharon State School, Shontelle created and managed the annual Bundaberg Robotics and Coding Challenge, hosted at CQUni Bundaberg.
“I remember supporting one student with low literacy skills, who had created his own story about the future where driverless cars would transport people to the shopping centre and park automatically with sensors,” she said.
“He worked his hardest to create diagrams and measurements, and build the scenario with his dad.
“His story was about a page long, and he needed a lot of support from his team partner in the beginning but on the day, he only needed help with one word.
“He received second place but it wasn't about winning the prize, it was about how far he had come with his reading and his confidence.”
Shontelle’s passion was recognised in 2017, when she received the Lego Education Teacher Award and travelled to the education symposium at Legoland in Denmark as part of her prize.
“Meeting teachers from China, Russia, America, and Denmark was amazing,” she said.
“The teacher from America was teaching robotics in very low socio-economic communities and achieving amazing results from the students.
“Also, Legoland just blew my mind. It made me realise that I think too much like an adult, and to just let the children engage and explore and don't put limits on their ideas.
“I learnt that there is room for explicit teaching, but do not interfere with creativity.”
Now teaching in the outback Queensland community of Cunnamulla, Shontelle says the popular toy helps her engage a wide range of learners.
“Not every child in my classroom loves Lego but most do, so working in groups on a project using Lego helps all involved find an interest in some way,” she said.
“Recently, the students designed and created wildlife feeders using robotics and Lego.
“For instance, a team used a soft drink bottle to hold some seeds and the Lego was used to hold it, and another team made a robotics pulley system that lowered the feed into the animal paddock at a certain time of the day.
“I think the Lego adds another dimension to what the children can achieve.”