Makerspace Moments: Creativity and Science with LEGOs (TPiB Lego Challenge Ideas)
As you may know, Christie and I recently put together Mobile Lego Makerspaces for our library system – the Grand Prairie Library System in Grand Prairie, Texas – and we have recently had some of our first “Lego Clubs” at our libraries. If you don’t know, you obviously aren’t reading the blog enough- LOL (we’ve been kind of Lego obsessed). This is what I wrote about my first meeting on the TLT Tubmlr:
“So I had my first Lego Makerspace today and a funny thing happened; I realized that most of my participants didn’t actually own Legos and really had no real idea what to do with them. I guess this shouldn’t surprise me, Legos are expensive, but it broke my heart a little. Okay, a lot. Like, I gave them a simple request: let’s build a car. They couldn’t figure out how to start it. So they started to just take the little figurines and tell stories with them. Which, you know, that was cool too. But then I got a book and sat down and tried to walk through it with them. In the end we came up with a pretty cool vehicle. It was basic, but cool. They want to come back. But you don’t think about the things that kids don’t have, that we take for granted.” – Karen
So buoyed by my first Lego Makerspace program, I have been further researching what to do and have some various ideas to share with you, from different challenges you can have in your meetings to how to incorporate technology. As a side note, I would like to add, my kids (and The Mr.) have been helping me research this a lot at home and we’ve had to try our hands a lot at Lego building. Sometimes all this family “research” is just so difficult.
Everyone gets an identical set of LEGOs (20, 50, or 100 pieces for example) and 20 minutes to create. See what everyone comes up with and have them “judge”. It can be open ended (no challenge theme) or you can give them a challenge theme to interpret.
Variation 2: Everyone gets a topic and a time limit, see how they interpret the topic.
Some topic ideas include:
Make LEGO animals
Make LEGO vehicles
Make LEGO Sci Fi scenes (I have done this for Star Wars Reads Day)
Make a scene from your favorite book using LEGOs
Make a scene that depicts a historical time period or 1 of the 50 states
Create an item you would like to see invented in the future
Make a word (or phrase) that means something to you, describes you, or describes whatever event you are promoting
Make a LEGO maze (see 15 Unexpected Ways to Use Legos) then see if the person on your left (or right) can get a car through it
Some Holiday challenge ideas:
Make a patriotic build using only red, white and blue bricks
Create a Halloween monster
Christmas trees, wreaths, ornaments, etc.
Valentines day: only use red, pink and/or white bricks
St. Patrick’s Day: all green
LEGOs and Tech
Legos in and of themselves may seem low tech, but you can combine them with current technology to help teach kids new tech skills while they explore creative avenues like storytelling. When I had my first Lego club, I was floored to realize that they liked the storytelling component as much as they liked the building. In fact, I had a group of boys who didn’t build at all but sat there and acted out stories using the Lego Minifigures.
You can combine a love of LEGOs and storytelling and teach tech by having your teens create Vine videos using their creations. Buzzfeed has put together a list of some amazing examples for you created by Mark Weaver.
Or you can have teens create longer video creations, like this kid who made his own Star Wars Lego movie. And yes, I said kid. In fact, you can have teens make their own Lego films and then host a teen Lego themed teen film festival in your community.
If you want to make it simpler, you can simply do Lego Instagram pics, which is combining basic technology – and readily available to most of your tweens and teens – with various forms of creativity.
Lego does have robotics kits that you can purchase. They have an entire tech outline called We Do that you can explore and utilize. Lego Mindstorms is a Lego line whose specific goal is to take Legos up to the next level. LegoEngineering is a website devoted to demonstrating how Legos can be used to explore technology and engineering. And this article is a great primer for using Legos to get kids interested in programming. And this page shows how one individual combined Legos with the Raspberry Pi to create a remote control car. So with a few add ons, you can incorporate some science and technology into your Lego fun; kids learn STEM skills and don’t even really realize they are doing it.
LEGO Reading Club Tower
I recently had a vision of creating an entire SRC Club theme around our Lego Makerspace. My vision is to have a LEGO themed reading program that creates a visual represenation of how much the kids in our community have read. First, we would create a sturdy base which would already be in place. Every time a kid comes in with a reading log, have them place one new brick for each book read onto your tower. Your goal is to create the largest tower possible. Everyone can see the tower grow and we have this stunning visual representation of the sheer awesome number of books our kids have read over the summer. I’m pretty sure I would have to buy some more Legos for this. And the trick would be making the tower strong and sturdy without making it too wide so that the tower grows up instead of out which is an engineering question. See, there is science involved in Legos. And math.
As a side note, there is a fun app called LegoMe that will turn your pictures into Lego block pics.
Here’s a Tip . . .
Even if I am not having a Lego Makerspace specific program, I still will pull my LM center out in my regular programming. For example, I recently had a Doctor Who program and pulled it out so those who wanted to could make Doctor Who inspired themes or objects. I have done the same for Star Wars Reads Day. For my upcoming Sherlock program I want to ask them to create a “crime scene” for Sherlock to explore and investigate.
Additional Resources for More Lego Activities
LEGO Family Time Activity Guidebook
Easily adaptable. My favorite activity is involves storytelling. Everyone has 30 minutes to create. Then you pass your creation to the left (or right) and the next person has to make up a story about that creation.
20 Fun Activities for Learning with LEGOs
This includes things like making a LEGO periodic table of elements, a catapult, and a balloon car.
50 LEGO Learning Activities from Discovery School
Some great ideas including LEGO Hangman, parachutes, and make your own flags. Also, make your own LEGO board game.
LEGO Engineering: Science through Lego Engineering
Design a structure (architecture), design an instrument (music) and design a people mover (simple machines)
Examiner: LEGO Homeschool! Oodles of lesson plans and more for every grade and subject
There are some good science related projects here, including chemical reactions and skeletons.
Some Additional Ideas
Amy at the Show Me Librarian has a great resource guide for starting a LEGO club at your library. I also love her idea of putting the creations in acryllic display cases in between meetings to decorate the library.
Star Net also has a getting started guide. I mainly include it here because the accompanying picture is a Doctor Who themed LEGO piece.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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