Kontu STEM Bocks – Review
Kontu STEM Blocks have been a massive hit with the Babipur community since we launched them earlier in the year. We have loved seeing how everyone has integrated them into play and learning activities, sometimes in ways we wouldn’t have even expected.
We were thrilled to receive this fantastic review of Kontu from Dr Mary White; teacher, academic, mother, and grandmother, who has shared her knowledge and expertise on what makes these simple magnetic blocks and an amazing educational and social resource for children of all ages.
Over to you Dr White…
However old we are, or wherever we live in the world, learning for all of us is about relationships, and relationships are about interaction. These relationships may focus on interacting with ourselves, with others, with our environment, or simultaneously with all three. This engagement with ourselves, others, and our environment results in our brain cells shifting and changing throughout our lives.
Kinaesthetic and Experiential Learning
Brain cells grow and form connections with other cells, which could be thought of like chatting to each other using chemical messengers. When engaged in an activity, chemicals can cross the gaps between cells, making a connection that we can think of as a pathway. Although we are able to make new pathways all our lives proportionally, we often make the largest amount of connections in our early years.
To learn and discover new things to make these pathways can take many forms; seeing, hearing, and doing. Because seeing with competent observation skills, and hearing with competent comprehension skills, is still developing in a young child. Accompanying these with ‘doing’ (called kinaesthetic learning) completes the experience and enables a young mind to emotionally and intellectually engage, and thereby enhance brain cells to make connections and form what we think of as pathways in the brain.
Adults often favour this style of learning too, rather than just watch or listen to new information, they prefer to actually engage in an activity and experience it with all their senses. This is called experiential learning. These neural pathways that result from doing and experiencing become familiar and pave the way for further learning and understanding.
Hence a small child, or in fact any of us as long as healthy and producing the necessary brain chemicals, can develop into a successful learner making connections; the neural pathways between cells in our brain.
Learning is interrelated
Kontu Stem Blocks facilitate kinaesthetic and experiential learning in an exciting, tactile, and visually pleasing ethically sourced product. Although at school learning can be departmentalised to give Mathematics, Science, Literacy, and many other dedicated learning areas; this is solely for the purpose of learning discreet skills to carry out specific tasks such as how to calculate percentages to work out discount at a shop, or read a map for directions.
All learning is totally interrelated, both inside its named subject and with other subject areas of learning. For instance, in Maths it is essential to see division as repeated subtraction, or multiplication as repeated addition to actually understand the process of what is happening. Maths is an exploration of pattern and sequence, like we find in art, nature, and music in our seasons and weather systems.
Kontu Stem blocks offer activities and challenges in Maths and Science, and capitalises on the interrelated relationship with both, They are a resource not only based on the physical engagement of doing the activity and achieving the result, but also truly experiential in the encouragement to ask open ended questions and predict results. Reflecting, hypothesising, and the ‘doing’ to see if the guess or hypothesis is correct (for example how many bits fit in this tray without counting), is an essential part of experiential learning. This in turn involves literacy; new vocabulary and the rhetoric of scientific enquiry.
Supporting older learners with Kontu
Although perhaps created primarily by the designers for younger learners, Kontu Stem blocks are applicable to learning and teaching at all primary stages and also offer a tangible resource for supporting older learners struggling with mathematical and scientific concepts. The activities and challenges provided as part of the resource offer excellent kinesthetic and experiential opportunities for a teacher to use in class with a group or individual, or likewise for a learner to work on their own.
In home learning whether as an integral part of home education or as a special quality interaction between an adult and child, the activities and suggestions given are motivating, clear and achievable. However the older or more experienced child can be asked to create their own challenges both for peers and adults. This gives the learner valuable ownership and purpose to their learning. For example you could ask an eleven year old to design five different activities to demonstrate the properties of magnets using the stem blocks, or set a quiz as to how many mathematical relationships they could discover between the numbers 1 to 10.
Give any resource to any child and they will come up with innovative ways to use it not thought of by the designer. This may be through counting, building or making patterns; the permutations are plentiful. Adults can learn many valuable lessons from observing children play with materials.
Pleasing to the senses
From an aesthetic point of view stem blocks are smooth, tactile, and pleasing to the touch. They are not easily lost because of the magnets and the fact that these magnets are concealed and secure makes them safe for very young children. Reinforcing the concept that learning is about relationships, and relationships are about interaction, Kontu stem blocks fulfil these ideologies at every level.
Children can explore and engage individually with the blocks in imaginative play, or by doing the varied challenges and activities provided. Children can work collegially with peers either at home or school, to achieve results to the presented challenges, or parents and teachers can use the stem blocks for shared learning.
The actual handling of the blocks themselves can be reassuring mentally, relaxing the individual into a readiness for learning. Kontu is a versatile forward thinking design to meet the aims of integrated child focused learning and facilitate brain development in every child, regardless of chronological age or prior learning experience, from pre school throughout primary stages, and in support of some older learners who may need experiential support with mathematical and scientific connectivity. It is a resource that can grow in its application alongside a child’s developing intellectual agility and most importantly offer much enjoyment and fun.
Dr Mary White
M.ed M.B.A. PH.D
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Huge thanks to Dr Mary White for sharing her experience and a wealth of knowledge, how Kontu STEM Blocks can support children of all ages in their learning and development, of not only maths concepts but interrelated skills.
You can read more about why we love Kontu over on this blog.
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