Back in 2014, this insight inspired
Learning Beautiful creates tactile materials to inspire hands-on learning in children ages 3 to 9. These materials are designed to explain simple concepts in computer science, promoting child-driven physical learning consistent with Montessori educational methods.
“It’s really important for young kids to be able to build and then play with it,” said Learning Beautiful founder Kim Smith Claudel SM ’17. “I don’t think I need to do much convincing to justify limiting screen time The importance of time. I am more concerned with the positive things we can give to children, and I think giving them these sensory, tactile materials is an opportunity to enrich their development.
The company’s materials include binary cards and pixel boards made from sustainably sourced wood, cork and canvas. To date, Learning Beautiful has sold more than 2,000 materials to schools and libraries and trained approximately 500 teachers to guide learning activities.
“If we think about how to scaffold learning for subjects like reading, writing and math, we see that all of these things are in place to create a strong foundation in early childhood to help progress in those subjects,”
From project to product
“His vision was to bring many different people together,”
The diverse group soon began exploring alternative educational methods, inspired in part by Kamvar’s own efforts to find a good preschool school for his children. Their ideas coalesce into what the team describes as the first open-source learning environment dubbed “Wildflower School,” inspired by the century-old Montessori learning method that emphasizes self-directed learning activities based on children’s natural interests.
The schools acted as test beds for teaching experiments in a project billed as “blurring the lines between homeschooling and institutional education, between scientists and teachers, between schools and surrounding communities”.
“I worked in schools for a year, doing art projects with kids, and that was my crash course in Montessori education,”
First school sparks interest
“The idea is to test different things with the community and foster this research within the school,”
after hearing the frustrated voice
“Kids are very helpful because it either works or it doesn’t,”
“DesignX changed the way I think about this research and turned it into ‘how can we take this strong foundation and turn it into a business?'”
The company’s first series of materials include a pixel board that demonstrates how computers represent images with 1s and 0s, and a “binary tree” that introduces the concept of data structures as children connect branches and build trees.
“With a binary tree, a 2- or 3-year-old might start playing using what we call sensory exploration,”
Learning Beautiful also provides support and educational materials for teachers.
“We learned early on that you can’t just give someone new material and expect them to adjust to an unfamiliar subject area, so we created children’s books, full curricula, lesson plans, and then training,”
When schools closed during the pandemic, the team developed instructions for at-home learning activities and made them available for free to parents and teachers. The slowdown also gives them time to plan the next series of material, which will be released next year.
“Pausing can be a healthy thing,”
Help everyone learn beauty
More recently, the company has been focused on expanding its teacher training efforts, including establishing a virtual training program.
Last fall, after partnering with a school district
“I think accessibility is really important on a few different levels,”
Learning Beautiful’s next product will go beyond computer science to encourage ecological thinking and help children understand the environmental systems around them and in their schools.
As the company’s sales grew, it developed a program whereby proceeds from sales to one community could help donate to communities with fewer resources.
“Hands-on learning works for all of us,”