Learning with LEGO

The word LEGO comes from the Danish word leg godt which means “play well”. LEGO has universal appeal and never-ending imaginative possibilities. The design of the block is so perfect that it hasn’t changed in sixty years. A LEGO block from 1958 would interlock with today’s LEGO blocks and the simple blocks can build everything from space stations to castles to mesh suits! Each LEGO program offered by Explore It! is designed to inspire, excite and challenge the students. Our programs all have exciting themes, varying from Robotics to Super Heroes to Star Wars and more. While each program has a unique theme, the principles of the program remain the same. There is a unifying focus on creativity, collaborative and independent play, active listening and presentation skills.

Each week students are given a challenge to complete within the theme. For example, in Super Hero LEGO the students might be challenged to build a superhero’s vehicle while in LEGO Engineers students may be challenged to build a bridge that can withstand weight. There are often books for the students to look at for inspiration but the majority of what they build comes from their own imaginations. While instructors are there to help facilitate, it is up to the students to devise and execute their creative vision. It’s truly fascinating to watch what the students are able to come up with. In our LEGO Animation program they even create scenes and movies! While the students are building creatively, they are also learning the basics of engineering. According to Tiffany Tseng (a graduate researcher at MIT) “Math and physics concepts are built into every LEGO project.” In the article on MIT’s engineering website Tseng goes on to explain how building with LEGO develops student’s spatial reasoning, teaches them about structural integrity and gives them a practical sense of geometry.

While their imaginations are firing and their engineering skills are being honed, our students are given the option to work independently or with a partner. Regardless of which path students choose, they all are drawing from the same materials. This fosters an environment where sharing is of the utmost importance. Students often enlist each other to help them find the perfect piece and while the odd argument may break out over who saw what piece first, participants quickly learn the benefits of cooperation. Each Explore It! LEGO program also has a week that is dedicated to a “Big Build” where all of the students come together to create a large-scale creation such as a cityscape, a mega-machine, a caravan or a giant structure. The students brainstorm together about what they need for their big build and assign roles to bring it to life. The big build is always my personal favourite week as the students work so hard to create something unique. Watching them connect everything together is truly inspirational.

At the end of each LEGO session, participants are given the opportunity to present what they’ve created. This section of the class is important as it emphasizes active listening as well as teaches the students to be comfortable presenting their ideas in front of a group. This time helps to foster the sense of community within the class as it is made clear that what every student has to say is equally important. When it is the student’s turn to present they are encouraged to use a loud, clear voice and to take pride in what they are presenting. The presentation is always optional but the vast majority of students opt to present, excited to share with the other students what their imaginations have created.

At Explore It! we believe in the importance of STEAM education and our LEGO programs exemplify this. With imagination, a supportive environment and a good basis in engineering, our LEGO programs are always a hit!