Playing with LEGO® has been known as a multi-sensory, open-ended experience. It engages users through a hands-on kinaesthetic and visual approach. A news article published by The Guardian earlier this year shows how teachers in UK have been using LEGO® in classroom teaching. For instance, in creative writing lessons, teachers use LEGO® as part of the student’s planning process to brainstorm and see how their storyboard will unfold.
“Play is the highest form of research.” – Albert Einstein
Over my past 7 years in Nullspace, I am privileged to have designed several cross-disciplinary programs for local schools such as teaching the digestive system through LEGO® Robotics. Not only did the students reinforce their learning and concepts, they had a great deal of fun exploring technology too. At Centre for Robotics Learning (C4RL), we use the LEGO® Mindstorms platform for our robotics courses to teach engineering and coding as students can check visually if the algorithms which they have created are effective.
In this article, I gathered a list of learning activities using LEGO® so that we can incorporate learning into our children’s playtime. So, what else can you do with the LEGO® bricks at home?
LEGO® activities for Kindergarten children
For our Kindergarten pre-school education, there is emphasis on topics such as spatial imagination, fine motor skills, language literacy, names, colours, sizes, shapes, and positions, such as under, over, and around. This is also the time where our children expand their vocabulary and list of words.
- Practising the alphabet
- Forming English sentences – I will suggest that the bricks can be colour coded based on their part of speech (such as noun, verb, adjective) so that students can have a visual representation of the correct Subject-Verb-Object sentence structure.
- Learning simple math
- Teaching numbers and counting
- Recognising and learning about colours and patterns
- Learning robotics through LEGO® WeDo – Through the drag-and-drop programming interface, students as young as 6 years old can program the sensors and actions of their models. At C4RL, I have a 4 years old student who was able to program her own motor movement by herself in our Pre-Beginner Class!
LEGO® activities for Primary School children
- Using LEGO® in creative writing – I have seen students reading the LEGO® Minifigure Character Encyclopaedia and I thought it will be a great idea to create stories and comics using the mini-figures and free comic creators. Stop motion animation is also another popular tool for students to make their own story or movie. Remember those days when we play with our toys and “talk to ourselves” to narrate our story?
- Learning about symmetry – This can be used to teach rotational and mirror symmetry. If you are a parent keen to learning more about symmetry in depth, I will recommend Coursera’s course for free online learning.
- Learning more about contraptions through books and videos or gears through LEGO® animated Constructopedia.
- Learning Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) through LEGO® Mindstorms – In C4RL, our Beginner courses allow students to learn more about Engineering Design Process and mathematical operators, such as greater than (>) and less than (<), through hands-on activities.
LEGO® activities for Secondary and Tertiary School children
- Learning about radiation and particle physics – This is a free resource designed by School of Physics and Anatomy, Queen Mary University of London.
- Representing atoms and molecules – Apart from ball-and-stick molecular models, you can build your own atoms and molecules using LEGO®. This brings us to the next idea, learning about chemical reactions.
- Learning about photosynthesis – This is a free resource designed by Edgerton Center, MIT. They have other resources available too.
- Learning about structural engineering– It doesn’t take an undergraduate level of studies to understand engineering concepts. I will be sharing more about this in my next post!
- Prototyping systems using LEGO® Mindstorms – In this YouTube video, a Teh Tarik Machine is conceptualised by a 10 years old student in Malaysia. The LEGO® Mindstorms system gives students a quick platform to engineer and program their model.
While this article has shared some ideas of learning with LEGO®, the take-home message is that there is much more potential educational value which we can harvest if we go the extra mile to innovate in our teaching and learning. I strongly encourage you to take the first step in using LEGO® or other platforms as part of your teaching. Coupled with a tip shared in my earlier post on empowering students through “Students as Teachers”, I hope you will be fascinated at the opportunities which they may bring.
To end off, here’s a TED Talk by Jane Andraka on hijacking your child’s education:[iframevideo] [/iframevideo]
Top Image “Batmobile” is by Flickr User Mike