Ever heard of a Rigamajig? Imagine a large-scale building kit for hands-on free play and learning. This collection of wooden planks, wheels, pulleys, nuts, bolts, and rope in the Bryan Innovation Lab
allows children to follow their curiosity through play. Steward students from all grade levels have discovered that the Rigamajig offers unlimited possibilities for creativity and fun.
“The Rigamajig helps us in our initiatives of play by allowing students agency over their learning,” explained Megan Young, Bryan Lab program coordinator. “The Jig is designed to allow students to take ownership over what they are going to build and to figure out how they are going to build it.” Instructors assist and inspire, but do not give direction, she noted. “Also, because of the size and nature of the pieces, the Jig requires students to work together to configure them. So, it’s a great activity for encouraging collaboration.”
Innovation Specialist Suzanne Casey, who teaches Children’s Engineering, noted that sometimes she and her Bryan Lab colleagues set up scenarios to inspire play with the Rigamajig, but often, with our youngest Spartans, “we let them work with a friend to explore how they can use the pieces to make anything they like.”
One of Ms. Casey’s favorite scenarios for kindergarteners involved Queen Clementine (a two-foot cardboard queen), who needed to get from one side of the Marmalade Sea (made from a bunch of orange yoga-mat dots) to the other.” The children needed to work together to build a device to accomplish that goal,” explained Ms. Casey.
Using a similar scenario, third graders playing with the Rigamajig discovered that the queen had morphed into the evil Queen Corona, “who has been making our lives difficult for two years,” said Ms. Casey. “The children needed to build a device to attack the queen’s castle so that she would lose her power over us. One clever third-grader made a ‘vaccine lake’ that the queen would fall into if she tried to escape.” This narrative, noted Ms. Young, “has been adapted to work with all grade levels, including Middle Schoolers and Upper Schoolers. While one might assume the Jig is meant for younger ages, it is engaging enough to work across all age levels.”
Carolyn Schuyler, Steward’s 2021-22 Visiting Innovator
, taught the school community that if children are given time to play, they are able to explore ideas that can be hard for them to talk about, and in doing so find ways to deal with them.
“The Rigamajig is a great addition to the Bryan Lab,” said Ms. Casey, “especially this year as it is such a great complement to our school-wide theme of ‘play.’” Take a look at the Steward Snaps of fourth-graders enjoying the Rigamajig.