Students at Ned E. Williams Elementary School are learning with pencil and paper but also with Legos and robots.

Principal Melanie Hamiliton said the Longview ISD campus introduced a plus program this year in which students have a day of their special classes, such as physical education and art, along with robotics, Spanish and gaming.

A 2017 federal Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant to Longview ISD allowed the campus to add the new programs, Hamiliton said.

One of those programs is the Lego wall, a space in a hallway where students can build with the popular blocks during the day.

Hamiliton said there also are Lego walls in math labs so students can use them in classes. Teachers in other subjects also can use the wall in the hallway for lessons.

“They can do fractions with the Lego wall, they do subtraction,” she said. “In English language arts, they can build graphic organizers. They can build those comprehension skills using the Legos to show the beginning, middle, end of the story to show sequential order.”

There are other benefits of the wall for students, such as providing a more open space to visit with a counselor, Hamiliton said.

“This gives a good little area that (the counselor) can talk with them, so it kind of opens up that conversation. It gives them a different environment,” she said. “It’s just something to start off that conversation about what’s needed to talk about their feelings and what’s going on that might not always cause them to behave in a way they need to.”

Down the hall, students were working Wednesday on coding small robots in Christinia Eagan’s robotics class.

The fifth-graders had a small, round robot that rolls and follows a line of color. The children could manipulate the speed and motion of the robot with the order of certain colors.

To incorporate what the students are learning in English, Eagan said the class uses a story for the robot to follow, such as the three little pigs, or students write their own.

The class eventually will evolve into building larger robots for competitions, she said.

In the gaming class, teacher Joe Manns used a game he created to show students how to use a program called Blender that builds computer games .

“They get to pull up a monkey’s head and they use what I taught them to take the monkey apart the fastest by going piece-by-piece,” he said. “That allows them to learn how to move around quickly and kind of recognize when they get ready to make something, the difference between faces, edges and vertices.”

Teachers work together in the plus program to align with what is being taught in other classes. For example, Hamiliton said faces, edges and vertices are being taught in math classes.

Another plus class is Spanish, which is in its first year on campus. On Wednesday, students were cutting out hands with “hola” and “adiós” to practice greetings and farewells with each other.

Teacher Elton Sanchez said the students are still working on the basics, but are responding well to learning Spanish.

Hamiliton said she is working on her Spanish, too, and it is important for students who speak English to be able to collaborate with those who speak Spanish.

“If they can work with their peers, they can build their relationship with each other,” she said. “(Sanchez) also teaches about the culture of Hispanics as well. I think the culture consciousness of the kids learning about each other, I think is a big impact in the classroom and working together.”