A playhouse marks nearly every childhood. Whether extravagant and Dad-built, created with blankets or hidden among the trees and foliage of the woods, this staple of back when memories delights. But, at five or eight or ten years old, who knew all that building and imagining was anything more than fun? Using a Fort Magic kit to create a STEM playhouse amplifies the learning. These sticks, connectors, and arcs naturally promote the use of science, technology, engineering and math skills. And, despite the traditional, “no girls allowed” sign on many a neighborhood fort, STEM playhouses speak to girls and boys.
But, why is this so important? Why has STEM become such a buzzword in the educational world? The skills behind science, technology, engineering, and math offer our kids successful outcomes in the future. STEM breeds creators, innovators, thinkers and problem-solvers. It is the foundation of higher learning, and it begins to flourish at a young age with a playhouse fort.
You might wonder exactly how to create a STEM playhouse. Start with basic sticks like those in a Fort Magic kit and just get to designing. The truth is there is no wrong way to build a STEM playhouse. The fort may take on the look of a traditional playhouse complete with an angled roof, windows, and a picket fence. Or, the shape may appear more abstract and geometrical. Perhaps your playhouse will boast turrets or lookout towers. Or, maybe the design will lack any appearance of a building at all. It is not the design or shape that makes a playhouse STEM-worthy. It is the skills employed to build it. Tackling the forces of gravity on fort walls or determining building materials develops science skills. Design challenges build forts and engineering skills simultaneously. And, counting, estimation and measurement represent just a few of the math skills used in this constructive play.
In reality, STEM represents hands-on learning that transfers to the world around us. It focuses on concepts rather than hard facts at the level of fort building. Creativity, problem-solving, ingenuity, resourcefulness and curiosity naturally arise out of fort building. And, these qualities prove to be the foundation of future STEM activities and careers. From the dreaming to the planning, the construction to the playtime, STEM concepts are practiced by young children without a thought. Yes, learning takes place in the childhood classroom of play – even at the academic level. Need more specifics?
Fort building offers opportunities to plan designs and steps to achieve them. This important sequential thinking lies at the heart of STEM activities. Kids need to figure out the best location and shape for the fort. What coverings will the Fort Magic playhouse support for roofs and walls? Should other materials be used in the design or architecture? Construction of the fort develops more STEM concepts through the use of building skills. How will the fort be put together? What lengths and types of pieces bring the design to life? How many of each type of piece are needed? Which designs make for stronger, sturdier fort bases to withstand family pets or younger siblings? Problem-solving proves vital across STEM fields. And, once again, the playhouse fosters this skill. Kids naturally address the wobbly wall or the collapsed creation. When the number of connector pieces is short for the intended design, does the creation take on a new shape or is a new way to connect the pieces found? What are the consequences of building too high or wide or narrow? Finally, STEM activities teach kids to experiment and accept failure as they discover new ways of tackling issues. In fort building, children may find innovative designs in the process. And, confidence is built as they learn that they can discover solutions and finish a project.
If you worry that the technology side of STEM has been short-changed, take a look inside the fort. While we often think of fort building as a break from or alternative to screen time, the occasional integration of the two produces great benefits. Used wisely and well-timed, technology adds to the fort building experience rather than detracts from it. Yes, technology can supplement fort play. A parent-protected tablet or other device presents the ability to explore a variety of topics. Use the following ideas to spur your thoughts on encouraging this vital skill development. Let kids use a digital device to:
— Research design ideas or issues.
— Discover facts about the Native Americans or astronauts to inform their play.
— Write collaboratively a story about their adventures.
— Read or listen to classic stories to inspire their imaginations.
— Create a short film or funny short.
STEM skill development proves vital for boys and girls. A Fort Magic playhouse builds this foundation from the early days when learning is nothing but fun. How are you making it fun to teach your children STEM skills? Share your ideas below!
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