The library at Churchville Elementary School (CES) has become a place for the imagination to run wild; a place for originality, collaboration, discovery and life skills. Recently, the space has been populated with brilliantly-colored characters, some good, some evil, brought to life by third-graders. Created with Bloxels™, small, pixel-like building blocks, the characters have names and backstories, and will live in new video game worlds built especially for them by the students.
“We’re offering kids throughout our school all kinds of engaging activities like this, but in the process of enjoying themselves, they are learning how to work together,” said School Library Media Specialist Kathleen Andres. “They are exercising artistic talents, developing ELA skills, acquiring math and logic skills and getting an introduction to computer coding. It’s fun with an ulterior motive.”
Students began this project by writing stories about their characters, like Splotch, a little green creature with white wings, who is “deadly, silent and works alone.” His evil nemesis is Callie, who is “sneaky with razor-sharp teeth.” The characters are created with colorful blocks, scanned into the Bloxel program, and then animated on iPads. Students create an environment — in this case, a desert full of quicksand — add obstacles and actions, and voila! A video game is born. They can then refine their creation by exploring the behind-the-scenes computer code.
The CES library is using a variety of learning tools and projects across all grade levels to engage students and build STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) skills and a solid foundation for 21st century learning. It is part of the district’s makerspace (collaborative work spaces where students can gather to share ideas, knowledge and equipment) directive that is being implemented throughout the schools.