We are lucky enough to have a block room in our school. Brooklyn School of Inquiry started out five years ago with only kindergarten and first grade, but year by year we grow until finally we are a K-8 school. So in the beginning we had rooms for everything. This year we still have the violin room, the TRIBES/ Responsive Classroom room, and the block room, as well as a music room, an art studio and a science lab. I keep reading about co-locations and overcrowding, and I want to cherish the space we have to do the work we believe in as long as I can. We may lose these things soon enough!
Last year I noticed that K and 1st signed up for the block room a lot, and 2nd had it a fair amount, too. 3rd to 5th pretty much never signed up. By the time I realized this, there were no available weeks until the end of the school year. For the last week of school, my fourth graders got to build whatever they wanted in collaborative teams. After watching them do this and seeing what they built, and how they worked together, I vowed to sign up more this year.
Kids collaborated in groups to build structures, meaning they had to agree on what to build, plan together how to build it, and build cooperatively. When some students wanted an animal sanctuary and others wanted a protected village, they made it work.
Some kids had to work to make a heavy structure balance atop a few small supports. The building above and below also has rooms hidden inside, so they built part of it from the inside out, rather than from the bottom up.
This one was made to have a ball or car- something that rolls- go down the ramps, sort of spiraling toward the far side.
There were many more structures and more ways of designing 3-D spaces. At the end of the week (during which we had about an hour a day in the block room), groups spent the last day sharing what they had created. They also talked about challenges they faced and problems they solved, both structural and interpersonal. Finally, it was time to dismantle and clean up. Again, it was an atmosphere of helping each other. Groups who cleaned up their own blocks first went on to help other groups clean theirs until the room was restored to its original state.
I have a few more weeks signed up this year, and hope to get in there with my 6th graders when I move to that grade next year!