Recently, the fischertechnik Division at Studica, Inc. announced a partnership with Minnick Schools, the education division of Lutheran Family Services of Virginia. The goal of this partnership is to explore how fischertechnik can be used in educating students with Autism and special needs, and to develop materials that can be shared by all teachers working with this unique population. Studica is passionate about STEM education offering online resources, classroom solutions and always looking for new ways to assist in the learning process. Our fischertechnik Product Manager, Lance Zurek, worked closely with the Grant Coordinator at Lutheran Family Services of VA, Diane Merryman, to develop this partnership. (Read more about this partnership.)
Studica’s fischertechnik Division presented the school system with 35 fischertechnik kits, valued at over $2,700. This is an excellent fit for an organization that provides educational services to students challenged with learning disabilities, behavioral issues and Autism. The program currently involves 149 students and 38 teachers at five schools. It is expected to grow to serve at least 750 students over the next five years.
New Learning Pathways for Students with Autism
The introduction of the fischertechnik kits has allowed Minnick educators to focus on creating new pathways and practices for their students. This curriculum has the potential to help students with Autism build basic fundamental skills, as well as teach STEM related concepts. During the process, Merryman said teacher response has been very positive:
“The students with autism appeared to really like the engagement and social interaction. But I could see that there was a lot of critical thinking going on too, which is a real asset for vocational training. For higher functioning students who have behavioral issues, teachers want to see a direct relationship with the curriculum and SOLs. The goal for these students is to help them overcome their behavioral and social challenges and transition back to the public school without a loss of academic progress. I think the kits are ideal for that.”
Monitoring Classroom Engagement
Experimenting with the kits and allowing the students to react and engage with the subject matter was the first phase of establishing this curriculum, and it was met with excitement. Teachers that worked with students with Autism notice that the kits fostered an increase in engagement, social interaction and critical thinking. Similarly, teachers working with students with special needs and/or behavioral issues noted that the hands on activities motivated the students to engage with the written instructions. This helped with reading and comprehension skills for students who struggled. Pairing vocabulary words to different aspects of a completed fischertechnik model ensures the vocabulary becomes a part of long term memory, which improves the likelihood that students will be able to recall the meaning of those vocabulary words when faced with Standards of Learning testing in Science courses.