San Antonio

“Building Science Skills through Building Blocks”

Kindergarten and 1st grade students at San Antonio School are getting an early introduction to critical science skills and concepts thanks to their teacher Icy Colborn and her use of wooden KEVA plank blocks in her classroom


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San Antonio kindergarten and 1st grade students use KEVA blocks to learn key science concepts


During the 2016-17 school year, Icy Colborn, K - 1 grade treacher at San Antonio School, was looking for a fun and innovative way to integrate S.T.E.A.M. lessons (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) into her young student’s curriculum.  But she also had a tall order to fill.  Her science lessons needed to align with the “Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)”, the new curriculum standards adopted by the California Department of Education (CDE) in 2013 to teach practical, yet innovative science concepts to students in grades K - 12 throughout all California public schools.  And with a classroom of 5 to 7 year old kids with a short attention span, she also knew she needed to create science lessons that were not only exciting, but would also inspire curiosity and creativity for science with her kids as well.  (Go to “Tosa Science Teacher” to learn more about the creative way the District is integrating NGSS curriculum throughout all elementary schools).


That’s when Ms. Colborn decided to obtain KEVA planks for her class.  KEVA planks are wooden pieces approximately ¼” x ¾” x 4 ½”, with each piece exactly the same size.  Educators in classrooms around the world are using these pieces for their students to build everything from simple forms, to elaborate and complex structures. And in doing so, students are learning valuable science concepts, along with visual and motor skills including prediction, observation, and balance, and teamwork skills including communication, collaboration and cooperation.


To secure funding for the planks, Ms. Colborn applied for and received a grant from the Ojai Education Foundation (OEF) for the 2017-18 school year.  With the OEF grant, Ms. Colborn was able to purchase 1,000 KEVA planks which her students are now using as part of exciting and innovative team challenges.


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A sample of the types of KEVA plank challenges students are building in Colborn’s class


“My students are using the blocks to create letters, shapes and towers,” said Colborn.  “The blocks help our students practice math and engineering by figuring out how many planks to use, where to place them and how to balance them.  They are also learning key science skills by predicting and recording data, by first drawing what the object they would like to build, then writing answers to questions including whether or not they were able to build the object, and how tall the object was they built using measurement.  All of this work is helping us prepare our students to become the next critical thinkers and innovators of the 21st century.”


Though Ms. Colborn and the teachers within the Ojai Unified School District (OUSD) have the passion and desire to provide enriching learning experiences for all of our students in the district, students in Ms. Colborn’s class just see it as a great learning experience in the classroom.


"I like the challenges Ms. Colborn gives us,” said Cail Burkett, 1st grader.  “Sometimes they are hard, and sometimes not too hard.  She let's us build tall towers and cool structures."  Hazel Williams, 1st grader added, "Ms. Colborn is teaching us that science is a lot of fun!"