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Learning with Lego

November 22, 2013

By Sarah Vander Schaaff

Lego is synonymous with STEM.

That’s what the representative from Lego Education told me and a room full of parents who were eager to hear about our school’s new partnership with his company.

I was, I admit, a little concerned.

How was the science teacher going to keep track of thousands of Lego pieces? I can’t seem to do that and I only have two kids losing them behind cushions.

Rest assured, Lego Education bricks, unlike most retail ones, can be replaced a la carte.

With that concern addressed, I was able to focus on how Lego Education is in fact synonymous with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

We watched three videos (and you can too by clicking here) and learned more about the effort Lego has made to create lesson plans that meet national standards. But we didn’t need a video to persuade us that kids love working with Legos or that hands on, collaborative projects can get students excited and teach concepts in a profound way.

There is little doubt that Lego engages kids. The company, according to a story posted this month on The New Yorker, is now the number two toymaker, beating out Hasbro. To put that in context, the story explains, “…Lego’s one brand (is) generating more revenue than Hasbro’s sixty-eight brands…”

So assuming most kids, as my daughter, love Legos, how will it help her acquire STEM concepts and passion?

For the younger kids, there’s a program called Simple Machines that introduces gears, pulleys, wheels, and axles. Slightly older kids, such as my daughter’s class of third graders, move up to Wedo, an introduction to robotics and programming. And although we didn’t hear about them, there are other Lego Education programs for middle school and some that focus on language arts.

There is something reassuring about linking the skills of the future with a hands-on toy that’s been around for 50 years.

But as one dad who was happy enough that his child would be using Lego Education in school asked, “Are these kits available at home if I don’t want to buy another Star Wars Legos? Once you put those together…now what?”

The room was silent.

Then, a big sign of relief when we learned the answer to that question was yes.

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