Unlocking math puzzles and mazes at CRS

It is never too early to learn how to collaborate and solve problems. Ask the students in Jodi Piontkowski’s first-grade class at Churchville-Chili’s Chestnut Ridge Elementary School. They are already practicing the fine art of teamwork, along with many other critical life skills, while learning how to count, read, think logically and have fun. Piontkowski, like teachers throughout the district’s schools, is using a variety of student-driven problem-based learning projects to increase engagement and raise achievement.

The active learning strategy her students were focused on in December was based on the model of the escape room, a kind of timed scavenger hunt featuring puzzles or riddles. The students worked in teams to solve a series of problems that required logic, pattern or shape recognition, and counting skills. The goal was to use the answers to unlock a safe holding a special holiday message.

As each group moved from one challenge to the next, the members became a cohesive team. They knew their goals and took responsibility for achieving them. At the end, the multiple teams needed to work together to find consensus on their answers in order to open the locked box.

“Experiences like this in first grade help to set the foundation for more advanced learning and social interactions down the road,” said Piontkowski. “Students learn how to respect each other’s strengths and differences, and how to use that to advantage. The teacher guides them, but they really drive their own learning process. The strategy builds creative, curious, confident learners. The life skills practiced here will serve these young people throughout their lives and careers.”

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