Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Lego Classroom

My wife and sons are on spring break this week and spent their first day off traveling to Lego Land. While there, they met with a master builder, which sounds like an amazing job, and built various Lego “things”. I spent three hours that night building “Lego things” with my sons on the floor of our living room. It brought back many great memories of my own childhood and the hours spent with my brothers building all sorts of things with our 30 gallon Rubbermaid tubs full of Legos. Let me clarify that when I say Legos, I mean the blocks, not the prefab kits. There were no instructions and what we created was purely a product of our own creativity and imagination.


Not to sound like an old man…(I turn 30 in May)…but kids these days all have pre-made kits with instructions. They are simply following directions to make the predetermined vehicle, building, or other object. Yes, there is still value in building this way, as with building a model airplane and other fine-motor skill work. However, I feel as though the creativity and imagination is being lost. When I wanted to build the Millennium Falcon, I did it on my own without pre-made pieces and step by step directions.


I will attempt to compare this Lego evolution to a classroom since this is in fact a pseudo-educational blog. In most classrooms, we are seeing more pre-fab work being done in the form of worksheets, standardized testing, and rigid curriculum. Students are being taught to follow directions and if they do their work exactly like we tell them, they will succeed. If they deviate from our plan, they fail. Just like if I don’t build that Falcon as indicated in my ten page manual, it would fail to look perfect.

Should our classrooms be more like that 30 gallon bucket of random blocks, pieces, and the odd rubber tire that was great to chew on when you were seven? Or, should we give students rigid directions and create great instruction followers. I know there is some negative hype around standards, but I like some focus with what our end game should be. I wouldn’t be able to drive my car without a destination or at least a rest stop. Give students those standards, checkpoints and the tools to achieve them. Then step out of the way and let creativity, imagination, and natural curiosity to take control.

Are you giving your kids the Mellienium Falcon kit, or a 30 gallon bucket of Legos?
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