Making STEM Part of the Curriculum with Christopher Rego
September 6, 2022
Making STEM Part of the Curriculum with Christopher Rego

We know the importance of bringing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to children, but sometimes it’s difficult to find connections that make sense to our kids. And, let’s face it, that is easy for teachers to implement.

That’s why organizations like Bricks 4 Kidz are so important.

This week on the podcast, we’re getting a look behind the scenes to find out what this organization does for teaching and learning and how it can save time and money for teachers across the globe. It’s already working in 40 countries and has been exposed to more than a million children…and has resources for corporations too!

About Christopher Rego:

Christopher Rego is an accomplished Corporate Strategist and Entrepreneur. He was the CEO of Creative Learning Corporation, a public company, for two years. He held various management and architect roles to contribute to the success of rapidly growing technology companies such as Oracle, Yahoo!, Tapjoy, and Intuit. He has extensive knowledge about the franchised business model in both the domestic and international marketplace. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Andhra Loyola College in Andhra Pradesh India and an MBA in Marketing and Finance from Acharya Nagarjuna University Andhra Pradesh, India. Connect with Christopher on LinkedIn.

Jump in the Conversation:

[1:42] – The importance of STEM training to make sure our kids are future ready
[3:02] – When to start with STEM learning
[3:55] – STEM, STEAM, STREAM–does it matter which label you use?
[6:36] – Bricks for kids – largest provider of STEM education
[14:47] – First steps in learning more about providing STEM to kids
[16:14] – Turbo Time
[20:45] – Chris’s Magic Wand
[22:28] – Maureen’s Takeaways

Links & Resources



Maureen O’Shaughnessy 0:03
Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at Education Evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education evolution, micro school coalition, and co founder of at active, I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:07
Hi, Chris, it is wonderful to have you on education evolution today.

Chris Rego 1:12
Thank you Maureen. Thanks for having me.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:15
And listeners. today I’m chatting with Chris Rego formerly of tech industry giants like Yahoo and Oracle. Now he’s applying that tech background to prepare our youth as CEO of bricks for kids, he has been promoting STEM learning since 2012. He’s a fierce advocate of STEM for our kids of value, I also hold Chris, we know our youth need to be future ready. And STEM is an important part of this. What led you to become this advocate for STEM training for children.

Chris Rego 1:51
So stem training is so very important for today’s children. has you know, stem basically, is not just it teaches more than science and mathematic concepts, right. It focuses on hands on learning real world applications. And they help them to develop a variety of skill sets, including the 21st century skills like the four C’s, which is creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and education. And I think today’s children need to learn STEM at a very young age for them to become innovators of tomorrow.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 2:43
I completely agree with you. We have the three R’s in education, reading, writing arithmetic, they say it seems like that early age we know we want kids to count and know their ABCs it seems like you’re saying that there should be also that emphasis. Tell us what age would you start? And what would you start with in terms of getting kids on to stem?

Chris Rego 3:09
I think the very early age of kindergarten, that the age I can tell you young age, the kids take in a lot of information as they grow older. It reduces so the early age, I would say kindergarten is the age that you want to start teaching them STEM concepts because they can take in, they can take in a lot more.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 3:42
Absolutely. Yeah. So when I look at all the acronyms, their STEM, science, tech, engineering, math, their steam, where you’re at in art, their stream, where you’re at in art, and reading, does it matter which of these labels what what’s your take on that?

Chris Rego 4:00
I think we removed from we started with STEM. Someone started from from stem saying okay, we have science, we have maps, technology, what about art, so then they moved they moved from it’s like everything is evolving, changing. So they started to add art in it and art is very, very important. And so moved from stem to adding steam. And then they said what about reading? So we should include reading so that it when they’re in read mode to stream. But a lot of places around the world. I think STEM is something which is is is what they are comfortable with teaching at schools. They add the art if needed, and they also sometimes do the reading too. When you do projects, or you do programs related to start to stem. It’s always when you put something together, it’s always artistic, right? You put something together, the art is already there. And when you do the reading, you want them to understand what they’re actually building. So like example, of a windmill, you want the student to understand what a windmill is, why, why a windmill? What does a windmill do, so that it helps them to understand before they build an actual window.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 5:42
I completely agree. And I think coming from the other way, when we have interdisciplinary, which is what you’re talking about, a good language arts program has technical reading and technical writing. We don’t want kids just to read fiction and understand characters and plots. We want them to be able to read directions, and follow them to program that remote control, whatever. And we want them to be able to write out directions, how do you make chocolate chip cookies, so I think it makes sense that we want stem to embrace literacy, and we want literacy to be hands on and real world. So interdisciplinary, makes wonderful sense. I agree with you. Now I want to pivot, because I have been really excited to learn about bricks for kids. Tell my listeners, what is bricks for kids? What are you guys doing?

Chris Rego 6:36
So bricks for kids? So bricks for kids? Is the I would say the largest provider of STEM education. And it is the number one children’s education program that teaches STEM concepts. And we are in over 400 locations in the US and 40 international countries,

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 7:06
14 countries.

Chris Rego 7:08
Absolutely. And we we have taught more than a over about a million children. Wow. Yep, we have done that. And we have our program has reached more than a million children through our after school program, our in school program, our summer camps. And we also do birthday parties, through our franchise almost across the world

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 7:35
that is so fun to have a birthday party that has something educational and fun. At the same time. I’m curious, what did you guys do with this wonderful hands on learning program when the pandemic hit.

Chris Rego 7:52
So when the pandemic hit, we had to pivot, we had to adapt. And we had to make a lot of changes. We moved from a brick and mortar, or where we used to go to the classes to an online class when the kids were sent to the parents home or the kids on to do the program. And we had zoom classes. So we had to switch. And we had to make these changes very rapidly. And we made those changes very quickly. And we created a bricks for kids elearning online, and wherein the kids were able to build at home at their own pace. We also gave them sent them weekly projects to be completed, like hands on you sent in the mail. You mean absolutely a hands on kit sent in the mail.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 8:56
So they got to keep playing and manipulating in real time. And they had online as a resource. Correct? Ah, very, very nimble of you to pivot and to make both of those available and to keep that learning going. I’m curious, Chris, what results? Are you seeing bricks for kids having?

Chris Rego 9:22
Oh, it’s it’s amazing. thing. I think the results have been been great. Not only before COVID. But even after COVID parents and kids. They love the program. We see a lot of them coming back to us. We just completed our summer camp. And it was you know, every franchise owner had a wonderful camp and a lot of kids had was they were excited. So I think bricks for kids. We have an amazing car reclame and that curriculum, not only for an in school, or an after school class, our curriculum is based on the NGSS standards and the common core standards. Yes. So we take that very, very seriously. Right? And we map our curriculum to the school curriculum. So, a very, very few companies do this. So when I say when we map it, what is a grade one kid? learn in class? What is a great to kid learning class. So we have done the mapping of those science concepts, those maths concepts, let’s say, a grade one teacher teaches the class on a chameleon. We already have a project of a comedian, they learn all about what a comedian is, they build a comedian. We talked to them about the the maths concepts and the science concepts in it. And let’s say a grade two teacher talks about the do everything from energy, like a waterwheel or a windmill, we have projects associated with with that with the windmill, or the energy. So they learn.

Chris Rego 11:24
So we have the math the curriculum, based on the common core, and to NGSS standards. And when we say we are stem, and how do we integrate science? How do we integrate maths? How do we integrate technology and engineering by actually having these projects? For the kids, when we say science project, they’re actually building a chameleon. They’re actually doing something on Space Shuttle. They’re learning physics, they’re learning chemistry, they’re learning astronomy. They’re also building engineering projects like the Eiffel Tower, we have that scissor lift crane, you’re at so when you say, Oh, how do you integrate engineer engineering? They’re actually building a crane. They’re actually so we have specific models of engineering models that the kids are building. And how do you bring in maths? We add addition, you have Legos, we have addition, subtraction, we talk about the how many? You How do you add the number of bags, so we talk about that. So we technology is coding we bring we bring all of this together? When the kid is doing in school program, or an after school program with us.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 12:52
I love that there’s so much research that supports project based learning hands on learning, and kids getting to align with passions and purpose. How do they know their passions, if we just give them the basics, so who knows that they might want to be a future engineer if they don’t even know what engineering means until they’re 20? So I love all of this exposure. And the design thinking that goes with that higher level thinking of creating, like you said, the four C’s that’s super important. I’m curious if I’m excited about this, and maybe I had a Boy Scout group that I lead or a youth group. If I were interested in like, hey, I want to do this and like there’s a franchise possibility with franchise I think of like Subway restaurants. How might somebody that would want to offer this to kids? How would they understand what the franchise consists of and learn more?

Chris Rego 13:50
If you want to rehab programs for homeschoolers for Boy Scouts, we also have programs for team building for companies. So we have even that. So if if someone wants to do something on on the Boy Scout, they just need to connect with a franchise owner. And the franchise owner will be able to provide them any of these programs.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 14:19
Nice. That’s so much easier than trying to figure out a franchise they reach out to a franchise owner and they can access these programs.

Chris Rego 14:27
Absolutely. And these programs are already available to the franchise owner and they’re able to run it if they reach out to them.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 14:35
Very cool. Love it. One more question. So I’m a parent. I’m a cat educator. I think STEM is important. What might be a first couple steps if it’s like really overwhelming. I’m not a part of a Boy Scout group or a school. What what could an interested parent or teacher do to learn more and to take some babies Steps to provide stem for kids,

Chris Rego 15:02
I think the steps that the teachers need to take is, is to start reading about STEM. Understanding why STEM is so very important. And then start doing some small stem projects with the kids, you know, you can take some Lego blocks, and start putting these blocks together, they are working, the kids are working as a team. They are collaborating, they are communicating, they are problem solving. So these small projects, like the big Lego bricks can be taken, they can put this together and start teaching them and the kids would love you know, they like to learn. So the It’s the fun way of learning through what we say to Lego bricks. That’s why our tagline is we learn, we build and we play with Lego bricks.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 16:06
Perfect. I want to switch and ask a few questions about you. Because it’s always interesting to learn about the person behind in this case behind bricks for kids. So I have a few turbo time questions for you if that’s okay.

Chris Rego 16:22
That’s okay. Yeah.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 16:24
So what’s the last book you read?

Chris Rego 16:29
Oh, the last book I read was The wealthy franchise. See. And this is this is by Scott Greenberg. It talks all about how to be a successful leader. And how to move away from you just saying I am not successful. And it gives you ways. And it tells you not to take all the negatives and put it aside and start focusing on what you currently you have to be successful. And that’s the book that I read. So very, very interesting book for every franchise owner to read. It’s called the wealthy franchisee

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 17:18
I will be sure to put that in our show notes. That’s great. How about two inspirational folks from history from from literature from real life that you’d love to meet,

Chris Rego 17:30
the two people that I would love to meet would be Elon Musk, very inspiration for some, you know, when we thought that, we will not be able to go back to space, he made it happen. And it was very inspirational for him. He never gave up. Although, when he launched those rockets, multiple times they fail. But he still, you know, made it happen. So Elon Musk, for sure. And the next person is Mark Cuban. Very, I would say a person who understands the business. The environment is a great leader. And that’s the other person that I would love to interact with him meet

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 18:19
Absolutely. What a passion you bring to STEM learning.

Chris Rego 18:25
All the passion that I bring to STEM learning is teaching these fun STEM programs to the kids to become innovators of tomorrow, I love to and also bring in new programs, right? It’s not just let’s bring in something new. So I always try I’m always thinking, what would be interesting, what would be appropriate to what would be really fun for the kids to learn, the more you bring in, the more they will learn and, and that’s my passion to always and I want to probably bring our programs throughout the world and teach everyone the value of STEM.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 19:09
That’s powerful. How about something that most folks don’t know about you

Chris Rego 19:16
a lot of people don’t know that. I used to be a national badminton player in India, I used to be really really good in badminton. And so a lot of people don’t know that I used to play this game and the current national or the badminton coach Gopi Chan is my very close friend and I used to play with him. So when they see me Chris, we did you play any sport said yes. I used to play badminton. I used to do it five, six hours for the for the day, very rigorous during my college time. I represented the university represented India. So I am a national badminton player, which means

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 20:09
that it that’s something so fun to know. And I didn’t know until I started working overseas how hard badminton can be because it was a backyard love it back and forth, casual sport when I grew up. And when I started to see people in other countries, it was like, Oh my gosh, this is hard and fast and crazy,

Chris Rego 20:28
is the fastest sport in the world. That that’s how how fast the shuttlecock comes to you very, very, very fast.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 20:37
Wow. I like to wrap up the interviews with a magic wand moment. So Chris, if you had a magic wand, and could transform childhood experiences, where would stem be in this transformation?

Chris Rego 20:58
Okay, so I will make sure to make sure I will make sure that I’ll be an advocate to make sure that STEM is thought at as a mandatory subject at all public and private schools, which is currently not done. I think this should be a subject thought, like your musics or your or your computer or your physical subject. It should be a mandatory subject, thought at every public school and private school and not just as an after school program, or an enrichment program.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 21:46
Big difference and optional drama program or debate program, no mandatory part of the required education. Great magic wand. Chris, thank you. Thank you for using your tech experience your savvy your leadership, and making bricks for kids a resource available around the world. So that STEM is a part of our childhood experience. Thank you so much for being our guest today.

Chris Rego 22:15
Thank you so much, Maureen, it’s a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you for inviting me.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 22:29
We know we want kids to have 21st century skills to be creating, communicating, collaborating. We also want learning to be fun and have a purpose. And how can creating with Legos not be all of those wonderful things. I appreciate that Chris is bringing his technology and business background together and creating this opportunity for kids to experience STEM learning in such a real world and fun way. His program is definitely academic curriculum. And not just fun one off activities NGSS standards for science and Common Core Standards overall guide all of our classroom curriculum development. So this is legitimate. As you know, I am a huge proponent of education evolving from the traditional assembly line model of the 1800s. When we create interdisciplinary projects, learning becomes real world. With the subject matter tied in, but not driving the project. Kids have a chance to create a hypothesis and explore and try again and another iteration, and then share the results with an audience. This design process is a powerful life skill, and students need multiple opportunities to do design thinking. There are now college programs and project management. These skills are important, and we need to make sure that education has evolved beyond teachers giving an assignment and then students playing the game of school and completing and submitting the assignment when they don’t find any purpose or value. Bricks for kids and other STEM project based learning are great ways to shift how kids experience learning in 2022. It’s definitely time to look at what is mandatory in schools, and which parts of learning truly help our students become future ready, and contributors in society. We also need to make sure that our learning practices are aligning with what businesses need in their workers. If we can’t find the purpose, or outcomes that help students become Work Ready In some of our instructional practices, we can be sure that our tweens and teens are not finding the purpose either mandatory stem and project based learning in a world that has STEM jobs that are not being filled because there are not skill ready workers, definitely sounds needed and like powerful education evolution to me. Let’s do it. As always, thank you for being part of the education evolution.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 25:38
If you are finding yourself thinking, I need to do this in my school. Let’s talk about it. I consult and also have a book TEDx talk an online course to support starting learner driven schools and programs. My goal is to help schools and individuals find new innovative solutions to reaching every student. Let’s create an action plan together, visit education forward slash consult to book a call and let’s get started. Education evolution listeners, you are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued and thriving. We need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today. I’d be so grateful if you’d head over to your podcast app to give a great rating and review if you found this episode valuable. Don’t wait. Please do it right now. Before you forget. I really appreciate it. Thank you listeners. Signing off. This is Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education.

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