This product is genius. Sometimes reviewing new stuff can be a bit dull, and the times when you see something genuinely different are few and far between. LEGO Education BuildtoExpress, however, is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and should be bought by every school in the country. Immediately.
Before telling you why I love it, it’s maybe necessary to point out that I am not an employee of LEGO, but I am a lifelong fan. The premise behind this latest development is simple – its aim is to encourage students to express their thoughts and ideas on any topic by building symbolic models with LEGO bricks. Each set comprises a small box of LEGO, and in the box is a collection of brightly coloured bricks, wheels, figures, and the kinds of pieces that used to get lost at the bottom of my box circa 1983 (bits of chain, steering wheels, telephones, transparent flowers, LEGO hair etc.). Now, a box of LEGO is a box of LEGO, and this product doesn’t really break new ground until you load up the guide and activity pack which is supplied on DVD.
To support the children in expressing their ideas, LEGO has created challenge cards, divided into the following categories: Social Education; Personal Development; Classroom Atmosphere’, ‘Cross Curriculum’, ‘History’, ‘Health and Physical Education’, ‘Language and Literacy; and Science. These are broken down further into themes which are accompanied by printable sheets comprising four stages that introduce and then develop the concept with the children. On the Citizenship card, for example, (Social Education) the first prompt asks the children to build a model showing what you think it means to be a good citizen. The children are given time to build, and then share their ideas with their partner or group. This idea is then developed further with additional challenges such as ‘build a model that describes how you and your family act as responsible citizens.’
The cards are simple, yet well-structured, and some of the suggested starting points are brilliant. In the Language and Literacy section, there’s a challenge that enables children to discuss and respond to poetry. They start by picking out a mini-figure to represent themselves, and then add pieces to it to describe how listening to the poem made them feel. I used a similar starting point with my children, who used the kit to create a story map for Jack and the Beanstalk. They loved it.
Beyond foundation stage, opportunities for our children to develop their natural creativity and curiosity are sadly outnumbered by more convergent learning experiences. BuildtoExpress is a great way of shoe-horning this kind of learning back into our curriculum. The high value it places on children’s thoughts and ideas reminds me a little bit of Philosophy for Children, only with more plastic. Buy and enjoy.