One of the activities I have used time and time again is building a LEGO duck to showcase the power of hands on learning, thinking with parameters, and to revisit the power of being a kid again. This simple activity is a quick and yet powerful way to engage the brain into thinking and learning. I have used it to serve several purposes that I would like to share with you in hopes that it inspires you to give it a try.
Teaching Moment #1: Makerspace Workshop
When I run a makerspace workshop I always start with a making challenge right away. Before I even introduce myself or anything else I toss out whatever the materials are needed for the day and we build. The goal is to model the way and not just talk about making. I want to break the traditional PD/session routine. So we build. We build quick. Here is how it works.
I used to have hundreds of these small duck kits of six pieces. If you can find these kits go for it. However, they are not required at all. I also know that is not practical so just give everyone the same pieces from the LEGO pieces you own. Pull random ones. Take the image above and try to find these type of pieces. Less is more to challenge the brain. If not, then grab some of the same pieces and don’t worry about the color.
If you don’t have LEGO pieces sitting around, then you have a few options
- Send out an email blast to parents. It is amazing how many middle school and high school parents will donate LEGO bins as they just sit and collect dust in their homes.
- Buy some. I recommend
How It Works
We are jumping in right away. You will be thinking with your hands. Are you ready because here we go. No time to ease into things. We are getting after it right now. Put on your thinking caps boys and girls because this maker train is about to take off.
Here is your challenge:
You will be given 60 seconds to make the best duck you can. Are you ready to do some thinking with your hands?
Get the timer ready. Put on your thinking hat and…….
It is amazing what they will come up with. Here are some examples of ducks created by students and my own kids when I was piloting and testing out the idea to make sure it was successful.
Post Duck Reflection
It is always good to reflect so I pose these questions for conversation with the whole group.
What did you make? Go ahead and snap a picture and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org so I can add it to our collection page.
- What skills are used to make a LEGO duck? https://answergarden.ch/view
- Are any ducks the same?
- What lessons did you learn?
- What would you try next time?
- How else could we document this process?
I go on to show them how my daughter who was 4 at the time did the same challenge. My son even jumps in towards the end. I show this video because it is a good reminder how quickly the adult brain puts in parameters and sometimes limits creativity. She is not timed as she was only 4, but watching the process is pretty cool and a magical moment of being a kid. I apologize for her crazy hair.
LEGO Duck Challenge Part 2: Group Collaboration
Once we do this quick 3 minute activity you will witness the audience(adults, students, whoever) continue to build. Their eyes are down. They are tinkering with the pieces. What if I do this….. Or what if I change this piece…….What if I start all over…….
It is awesome. Instead of moving into the ho hum lecture style teaching and presenting we move quickly into another challenge. They have a bit of confidence. They have smiles. They are laughing.
So we go again
I remind them of the following essential elements to making
- Just start building. Trust your hands.
- Let them pick the bricks they want.
- If you are not sure where to start, then just let your hands do the work. The brain will catch up.
They will now be working as a team. No longer can they just think alone. They have to communicate, collaborate, and process how to make it work. Pay close attention to how the groups work. There are so many methods it is amazing and a great conversational piece.
Post Team Duck Reflection
By now they are good. They are content and ready to move on into substance. They have their fix. Theirs brains have been primed and juiced, but now they are ready for more. They want content. Connections. Proof of application.
You have them hooked. I quickly jump into a short discussion about play with the following ideas.
Play Allows Us To…..
- Team build
- Unleash creative thinking for accelerated innovation
- Work out a solution to a shared problem
- Create a shared mindset about something
- Constructive discussions where everybody is heard
- Build a shared vision
- Leadership development
- One-on-one coaching and team coaching
- Use with your children, family, school, …
At this point you can move into your next activity. If you are in the classroom, then where would you go? If you are teaching teachers, then where would you go? I am interested in your next steps.
What do you think? I will be sharing part 2 next week with some other school wide building challenges, but for now I would love to know how you can incorporate this idea into your classroom and school?