MIT STEP Lab Presents

Imagination Toolbox

a fun, creative PD workshop for educators who want to bring engaging computational experiences to their students


Register here!

Imagination Toolbox is a fun, creative week of professional development designed to give educators a chance to incorporate the power of computational modeling and/or games into their classes using StarLogo Nova. StarLogo Nova is a free, online, 3D, blocks-based programming environment designed specifically for creating computational models and games in classroom contexts. Imagine animals in a complex ecosystem, molecules in a chemical reaction, villagers in an ancient country, or even swarms of invading aliens in sci-fi snowball fight–all of these can be brought to life through simple, blocks-based code.

There are many ways teachers can use StarLogo Nova with their students: students can create their own models of or games about a certain topic, a teacher can create a game or simulation and have their students use it, or a teacher can adapt and use StarLogo projects developed by others in the community. We’ve developed many ideas and sample activities over the years that you can adapt or extend, or you are welcome to design your own idea from the ground up, supported by insightful peers, talented MIT/Wellesley student assistants, and our experienced staff. You do not need to be a programmer to find something that will work for your students.

By the end of the workshop, participants will have created/planned an activity specifically suited to their classes. For example, a computer teacher may create a guided programming activity, whereas a science teacher may build an ecosystem simulation, and an English teacher may modify a game to take place in a scene from a book. Participants will also practice the technical and pedagogical skills necessary to successfully bring this content to their students.

The workshop is open to educators in all subject areas who have an interest in incorporating computer programming, modeling, simulations, or games into their classes. It is ideal for an educator who has an idea for an activity or learning goal, but needs help developing and sequencing the activity, or who needs ideas for how to incorporate computational modeling or computational thinking into their practice.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Excitement about using computational modeling/thinking practices with your students
  • Commitment to attending the entire workshop
  • Confidence and comfort with student-centered pedagogy
  • Access to a class set of computers or a computer classroom

Summer 2024 Details:

  • August 5-9, 9am-3:30pm EDT
  • In person at MIT (recommended if possible)
  • Virtual participation option via Zoom
  • Letter documenting 30 hours of professional development (for PD credit outside MA)
  • 30 PDPs or 3 CEUs for MA teachers
  • Registration is free this year!


“I have been continually impressed with the quality of the presentations, the thoughtfulness of the activities and the responsiveness/support of your team… I am thoroughly looking forward to introducing my students to [StarLogo Nova] and to working with the STEP team in the coming months/years!”

“I have gained many things to use in my classes. The two blocks challenge makes students explore on their own, which I find they are reluctant to do. I think the fact that we had to make our own lesson helped me think about new lessons that I will use in my classes.”

“Very positive experience, as always. The workshop had a nice balance of opportunities to learn new things, practice on projects that are useful for us, and chances to take mental breaks as needed. Each year I learn more, and can feed that back into projects I’m leading.[…]This is a good community to be part of. Thanks to all — Daniel, Wendy, facilitators, and participants. I hope to be able to get back for at least one follow-up meeting.”

“I learned so much and I feel like I have met some kindred spirits. It was great having the time to play with the challenges we were presented with. I leave quite enriched.”

“Imagination Toolbox was one of the most absorbing workshops I have ever attended. You not only expanded our simulation and game programming skills, but also continually modeled best practices in presenting new material. I found myself not only taking notes about StarLogo TNG and [StarLogo Nova], but also about ways to engage students from beginners to those more advanced.[…] I am also heartened by the team’s priority to build a vibrant learning community alongside application development. I will confidently recommend future STEP workshops to my colleagues and look forward to spreading the use of StarLogo throughout our grades 7-12 STEM curriculum. I am also envisioning opportunities for simulation and game design in the English, Social Studies, Spanish (our sole foreign language) and Art classes. Thank you all so much for the chance to participate, for honoring the ideas we brought into the workshop each day and for the wealth of curriculum materials you sent us back out into the world with.”


Project Specifics


Educators, Researchers

Content Area

All subjects welcome

Project Contact

Daniel Wendel