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Cooperative Play: Rigamajig and K-2 Collaboration

In the early years of education, specifically in Kindergarten through Grade 2 (K-2), children are at a crucial stage of development when it comes to collaboration skills. During this period, they begin to lay the foundation for effective teamwork and cooperation. Children in K-2 are learning to share, take turns, and engage in simple group activities, which foster their ability to work together with peers. They are gradually developing important social and communication skills, such as active listening and expressing their ideas clearly. Cooperative play may not always come naturally to children of this age. At this developmental stage, kids are often focused on individual needs and desires, and they may struggle with sharing, compromising, and considering others' perspectives. Their communication skills are still evolving, which can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts when working with peers. Additionally, competition and the desire to stand out can sometimes overshadow the benefits of collaboration. However, with guidance, patience, and the opportunity to practice teamwork, children can gradually develop the essential skills needed for effective collective work, such as empathy, active listening, and the ability to work together towards a common goal. Teachers and caregivers play a significant role in nurturing these skills by providing opportunities for cooperative play, group projects, and problem-solving activities that encourage children to work together and learn from one another. 

Rigamajig is an exciting product that embodies these principles of collaborative play, group projects, and problem-solving. It is a hands-on, open-ended building kit designed to encourage curiosity and teamwork in children. Rigamajig transforms classrooms into bustling hubs of creativity, offering young learners opportunities to collaborate and solve problems creatively. Through its simple and open-ended design, it fosters an understanding of the basics of engineering and mechanics, design principles, and iteration. With every creation made out of wooden planks, wheels, wing bolts, nuts, brackets, pulleys, and ropes, students also learn the art of combined effort, the joy of shared discovery, and the value of input from peers.

This isn’t mere conjecture; there's compelling research to back it up. In 2019, researchers from Concordia University and Purdue University embarked on a mission to observe elementary children's group play with Rigamajig's materials. In four separate 30-minute sessions spanning a month, their findings were revealing. Children consistently showcased remarkable levels of social development, reflecting 21st-century skills. On average, in just half an hour, each child engaged in 38 cooperative behaviors and assumed leadership roles 8 times. The spirit of teamwork seemed to flourish with age, as collaboration grew from occupying 33% of kindergarten playtime to capturing 57% in 5th-grade sessions. With each turn and twist, Rigamajig seamlessly introduced the fundamentals of working together.

When children engage in cooperative play using Rigamajig building blocks, they are exposed to various situations that require problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. They learn to navigate through group activities, negotiate with others, and resolve conflicts. Recognizing the educational potential of these play sessions, we've created resources specifically for teachers. To help them foster collaboration and skill development among K-2 students using Rigamajig building blocks. The goal is to promote confidence, trust, and communication skills in students through hands-on cooperative play experiences. These strategies, activities, and resources are applicable to both the Rigamajig Basic Builder Kit and Rigamajig Junior. 

Strategies to Explore

  • Begin with individual observation encouraging the sharing of ideas and feedback to build trust and a sense of collaboration, and then move toward collaboration in pairs and small groups
  • Place students in pairs and small groups (3-4 students) to let students experience how they can help one another by sharing resources and holding and steadying pieces for one another
  • Provide a set number of select pieces to each pair or group ahead of time to create equity among the groups and provide a helpful constraint
  • Steer away from competitive play toward collaborative play:
    • Give a slightly different challenge to each collaborative group
    • Allow each group to share what they’ve made with the class
    • Ask questions to the entire class to feel a sense of collective collaboration
  • Find opportunities for individuation alongside collaboration:
    • Each student could take turns contributing a piece to the creation
    • Each student can be asked for their ideas and feedback
    • Assign a particular piece to each student, allowing each student to see the role that their assigned piece plays, as well as a way to engage everyone in the building activity
    • Allow students individual time to free-build and follow their own hunches, then ask students to share what they’ve made in pairs or groups.

Project Plans for K-2

Project Plans are organized by grade and skill level. Recommendations for getting started:

  • Explore Rigamajig
  • Preparative Actions
  • Explore and Create

Different Project Plans cater to various ages and learning styles. So, dive in and find the best fit for your classroom, and enjoy the process of discovery and creation with your students.

Play Prompts

Play Prompts are both language-based or pictorial prompts to spur creative problem-solving and work on mini-challenges. While they are designed to be open-ended and without instruction, below are recommended strategies for collaborative building:

 “How many different ways can you join three pieces?”

  • Place students into pairs or groups of 3 students.
  • Provide a constraint by handing out 3-6 pieces to each group with a handful of Wingbolts + Nuts.
  • Let students experiment and learn that they don't always need brackets to connect two items
  • One student could draw the creations before deconstructing them, and the group could name the creations to share their discoveries with the class.

 “What can you build with X number of pieces?”

  • Place students into groups of 3.
  • Hand out a set number of pieces to each group. Try 6-8 pieces plus a handful of Wingbolts + Nuts.
  • Students will problem-solve how to use all of the pieces, how to create stability, how to help each other affix pieces, and hold the creation steady together.
  • Ask students to spend time naming and describing their invention, encouraging them to imagine what it is and what it does. This will stimulate language-building, listening, and brainstorming.

“Tell a friend about your invention.”

  • If you sense that K-2 students need time to free-build on their own from time to time, allow that opportunity. Follow up the free-build with a collaboration activity by asking students to share what they’ve made in pairs or groups of 3-4.
  • If they didn’t make an invention with a name, perhaps they could share something they enjoyed, noticed, or discovered.

Different prompts will inspire ideas for different ages and different learning styles, so have fun experimenting!

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