Building Lego Walls

This is another great guest post by Cathy Iverson – our amazing library tech.  She wrote this for other library techs who wanted information on how to build a Lego Wall

The name ‘LEGO’ is an abbreviation of the two Danish words “leg godt”, meaning “play well”.  Lego has been around since 1932 and has inspired several generations to create, build and has also been used in the classroom for years as a tool for teaching math and science and can be especially useful in grades grades 1, 3 and 5 here in Ontario where, Structures and Mechanisms are such a big part of the science curriculum. It is also a great opportunity for educators to make this a part of their differentiated classroom.

At its most basic level, differentiating instruction means “shaking up”what goes on in the classroom so that students have multiple options for taking in information, making sense of ideas, and expressing what they learn. In other words, a differentiated classroom provides different avenues to acquiring content, to processing or making sense of ideas, and to developing products so that each student can learn effectively. Carol Ann Tomlinson, How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms, 2nd ed. (2001), p. 1

The idea of Lego walls and Lego tables was first introduced to the Library Techs in our Board a few years ago by Donna Presz, former Supervisor of Library Services. I remember reading the emails thinking, Lego what?? The point Donna was trying to make was that it was time to think outside the box.

The new Learning Commons model was causing a ripple effect across North America. A shift in thinking required some creativity to make our spaces viable again and realign us with 21st century Learning. With this shift came smarter technology as we saw the introduction of SmartBoards, eResources, Netbooks, Chomebooks Ipads, Wifi, flexible furniture, brightly coloured walls and of course, empty Computer Labs. Many of us were inspired to do some interesting things with that empty space but none inspired me as much as the idea of the Maker Space and building a brightly coloured Lego Wall.

The Lego wall, being a fixed station in our Maker Space here at St-Anthony, can be used at any time and is often a collaborative activity especially among the primary grades. The structure itself is made of recycled particleboard, which our very creative custodian salvaged from an old tech cart. We purchased some Lego plates and he carefully measured out the surface and then glued them to the wall using carpenter’s glue. After letting the glue dry overnight he then screwed the corners of each plate with very small screws. Another screw was added to the middle of each plate for extra support.

Buckets of Lego and Duplo blocks were salvaged from dusty basements, classrooms, math room, and a few were even purchased to complete the project. We now have a busy Lego Wall which, at any one time, can be home to a medieval castle, a vertical marble maze, a battleship or a simple greeting for guests.

 

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I am in no way an expert on Cognitive Development or a technological wiz but I do know that the students here at St-Anthony get very excited about their hands-on learning in the Maker Space. Whether we run a High Tech station (Designing a house using Minecraft to teach area and perimeter) to a Low Tech station (using Littlebits to build a hypnotizing wheel) to a No Tech station (Lego Wall), the students are using their imaginations, fine-motor skills, and creative energy.

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“Spatial thinking is useful in everyday life but also useful in science and math,” says Nora Newcombe, an expert in cognitive development. “It launches children on a good trajectory. But it can also be improved in adults; so, if someone gets interested in engineering, say, in late high school, they needn’t say, ‘I could never do that’. Instead, they can change course.”

Nora S. Newcombe, Ph.D., is a psychology professor at Temple University and principal investigator of theSpatial Intelligence and Learning Center (SILC), headquartered at Temple.

 

I have received many emails from other Library techs requesting information on how we built our Lego wall. If I can offer you one valuable piece of advice it is this; “don’t get caught up the the weeds”. It’s not how your Lego wall is built or what materials you use to build it that makes this a successful part of your Maker Space, FabLab, HackerSpace or whatever you choose to call it, it’s how you will use it. Be creative and let the students have as much input as possible. It’s not a book that is “For Reference Only”…it’s meant to be used.

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