According to Brick Scholars’ founder Megan Oteri, learning through play is the best way to allow the natural creativity and imagination in a child to take its rightful place.
Oteri, who moved to Wilson in 2006 from Wyoming, founded Brick Scholars after leaving the classroom full-time. She said she saw the need in the community and knew she had the skill and passion to make it a reality.
“As a teacher, I have always believed in arts integration,” said Oteri. “I was always the teacher that brought in writers, people like me, who give the kids different experiences through the arts.”
Brick Scholars is a mobile STEAM lab that offers engaging, creative and fun educational programs and professional development using Lego Education products. Oteri is a certified Lego Education Academy Trainer and though she incorporates the Lego principles into her activities, she specializes them so they will be a Brick Scholars lessons. The program’s tagline is “Fun that Changes the Future.”
The group offers mobile classes, summer camps, workshops, residencies and in-school field trips, said Oteri.
“We tailor it to schools and help teachers in every way, so that they have their needs met,” said Oteri. “We can meet Common Core objectives. We sit down with teachers and create a program and tailor it to their needs.”
Oteri is a certified teacher in K-12 special education and K-6 language arts, so she said she understands the need to meet objectives.
“I have always as a teacher embraced creativity, and it is so important for kids to be able to do the things that are involved with the creative process, but as a teacher, those are not always the easiest way to facilitate a lesson,” said Oteri. “Creativity can be chaotic and messy, but it does allow the kids to learn systematically.”
On Monday, Oteri held a workshop at the Save-a-Youth Program that taught kindergartners through sixth-graders about building a Lego robot and then using computer programming and coding to make it move.
Cassandra Bass, Save-A-Youth program director, said Brick Scholars not only fits the goal of Save-A-Youth, but was also very impressive.
“We asked Brick Scholars to come, because we are trying to incorporate a piece of the STEAM program and we wanted to incorporate that into our summer program,” said Bass. “We thought our kids would greatly benefit from the hands-on activities that Megan showed us.”
The goal of Save-A-Youth is to prevent at-risk youths from getting involved with drugs, gangs, jail and violence.
Bass said the best way to do that is to teach kids a way of life besides the quick money that can be made on the streets.
“We provide kids some better alternatives,” said Bass. “Not only do we have our afterschool program, but we have these vocational classes that teach them life skills that they can use later down the road.”
Oteri said STEAM programs are perfect for teaching kids and helping them build the tools to succeed later.
“If I see a kid make one mistake that is going to keep their robot from moving, I don’t tell them,” said Oteri. “I let the child find the mistake. That part of the design process is necessary, because they have to learn that failure is part of the process.”
Oteri continues to teach so that she can encourage the growth of natural creativity and imagination in the kids in her programs.
She said creativity is key contributor to workplace success.
“These kids that are in school right now are going to find solutions to problems that we don’t even know about yet,” said Oteri. “A lot of these kids will work in jobs that haven’t been invented yet. These kids are going to change the world, because our world is changing right now.”