Middle School Students Build Sensory Toys for Early School Students

The collaboration between the grade 7 students and Early School involved MS students’ “Tartan Toy Company,” developing toys to help enhance ES sensory skills. 
Middle School students were provided an opportunity to engage with Early School students last week as part of a sensory research project. The collaboration between the grade 7 students and Early School involved MS students’ “Tartan Toy Company,” developing toys to help enhance ES sensory skills. The unit involved designing a sensory toy focused on fine motor development for 3-5 year olds. The lesson encouraged MS students to apply the design thinking process to solve a problem - to think like innovators and creators.

According to Eric Harrington, MS Science teacher, providing students with an opportunity to think innovatively is valuable: “Grade 7 life science students learned the process of design thinking by utilizing a design sprint to solve a real-world problem.”

The project’s development started with the grade 7 students visiting the Early School Outdoor Classroom where they played with, and observed ES interests in games and sensory learning.  This time together allowed them the opportunity to think of ideas and develop sensory toys for ES students. MS students took their observations, conducted research, and innovatively designed these sensory toys using rich materials.
The grade 7 students presented nine designs. The Early School students were encouraged to provide feedback, and vote for the sensory toys they liked best.  Simultaneously, the Middle School students participated in a “Silent Critique” a technique used in design sprints to determine what product to move forward with. 

MS students continued the unit project by developing their toys and making several iterations to be tested by the younger students. As a result, Middle School students will utilize this product as part of their innovation portfolio. Students who are interested in further developing their product will have an opportunity to use more advanced materials to create “Legacy Toys” to be used by Early School students. 

Early School students also visited the grade 7 classrooms to participate in testing the prototypes. “It was a rewarding experience to observe how each Middle School student communicated with their younger counterparts, and encouraged them to test out the prototypes,” said Early School teacher Hope Petrozzi.

This unit has been an enriching experience for both the grade 7 and the Early School students, fostering collaboration and learning across different age groups. “Any time our community is able to connect with each other is a gift.  There is so much joy and learning that occurs from cross-divisional interactions. The seventh graders truly appreciated the opportunity to work with Mrs. Petrozzi and her class,” said Mr. Harrington.
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