To those who understand the capacity of LEGO® in the context of learning, the following statement will come as no surprise …
LEGO® is, by its very nature, the ideal medium for inquiry-based learning.
In very broad terms, inquiry-based learning (IBL) refers to an educational methodology whereby a facilitator poses questions, problems or scenarios to introduce a concept. Students are then supported through a process of investigation and exploration, to positing and testing a hypothesis, and ultimately discovering the answer or solution to the initial problem through this process. It is an approach to learning that is open-ended and open to further improvements and expansion of ideas. IBL is further characterized by the community in which the learning takes place. This is no individualized approach to learning, but rather one that requires collaboration and communication within a social group to further the collective understanding of all the participants. Through the process of presenting and sharing their ideas and solutions, and improving upon each other’s findings, every member of the group benefits in their overall understanding and learning.
Pretty fantastic, isn’t it?
In fact, the LEGO® Serious Play methodology, which infuses elements of all our programs, is an inquiry-based approach that participants use to explore, test, and expand upon ideas. We, at kids n bricks™, are huge proponents of inquiry-based learning for a number of reasons:
1. It allows a full partnership between the kids (or adults) we play with and us; it allows us to help bring them to a successful achievement of whatever goals they are seeking to reach. For some, it will be to build the model that they can clearly see in their mind’s eye, down to the last special LEGO® element. For others, it will be to achieve the lesson outcome that was communicated at the beginning of the class. For others still, it will be to achieve a solution to the issue that their team of work colleagues is struggling to reach.
2. It provides an opportunity for authentic, concrete learning – with lasting results! When anyone – child or adult – builds with LEGO®, the hands-on nature of the activity forms stronger connections in the brain’s memory bank. Without getting too scientific, it only makes sense that, when you do, you remember – better and longer than when you are just told.
3. It is a more effective approach to teaching and learning, because it engages students’ interest, thus increasing their “buy-in” to the lesson at hand.
4. It is fun. The importance of this last reason cannot be underestimated. Human nature is such that we flourish under positive influences and experiences. “Fun” and “educational” both describe learning with LEGO® – and both lend to its success as a learning tool.
I’ll share an example of how we use LEGO® as a tool, employing the inquiry-based learning approach, through our Bully No More school program. In brief, students are asked to build a LEGO® model of what bullying means to them. Everyone then has time to share their model, and then the group collaborates on a communal, inclusive definition of what bullying means to them. This is not a dictionary definition – it is customized to their real-life experience with bullying. Once that definition has been established, the group is then ready to move on to next steps – dealing with and preventing bullying in their environment – be it the classroom, schoolyard, or the whole school. This is serious stuff we deal with – and it is incredible to see what kids, even as young as 7 years old, are able to communicate and propose to deal with this issue. The key to the success of this program is two-fold – the use of LEGO® as the medium, and the inquiry-based learning approach (which is fundamentally similar to the LEGO® Serious Play methodology we use).
Whatever the subject, LEGO® enables students to visualize a fact scenario, test possible outcomes, find a solution, and thereby answer the original inquiry. And because the students have deciphered the concept for themselves – as opposed to merely being instructed about it – it is more likely that this learning will remain embedded in the hard drive of their brain.
Therefore, it is with good reason that I say that the inquiry-based learning methodology is built into LEGO® ’s DNA.
Until next time, leg godt – play well!