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Jeff Bradbury

How Can LEGO Bricks Be Used To Teach Our Youngest Learners About STEM Education?

LEGO Coding Express Blog Post
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This summer was pretty amazing.  At the end of last year, I found out that I was accepted into the first cohort of the LEGO Master Educator Program and would have the opportunity to attend a pretty awesome Meetup in Chicago during the ISTE conference.  During the conference, I learned about LEGO Education and their mission not just to provide amazing resources to teachers and students, but also to bring advanced STEM topics into the PreK classrooms.  This started my summer journey into the world of “Toddler Tech.”  This also had me asking the question, “What can LEGO Bricks do for my EduTriplets?”

My little babies are sadly looking no longer like babies and are almost 5 years old.  They wake up with a ton of energy and go to bed with a world of possibilities in their eyes.  If it has been said once, it has been said a million times … “my children bring out the inner child in me” This pretty much sums up the story of my summer.

LEGO Voltron in Mall StoreMy Childhood… I Found My Childhood!

In August, my oldest triplet and I went to the mall.  He was looking for a new toy and I was looking to spoil him rotten for being a good boy. (#Parenting101) . It was then that I laid my eyes on one of the most amazing toys I have ever seen.  LEGO released a full-sized VOLTRON statue!  This LEGO set is pretty amazing.  It comes with more than 2300 pieces and is almost 2 foot tall.  As a child of the 80's, I knew I just had to bring it home …. ya know … for my son.  (#wink)

Over the next few weeks, my kids and I spent quality time building this gigantic robot piece by piece, or should I say, Lion by Lion.  This not only gave me valuable quality time with each child individually but allowed me to engage them in some pretty awesome conversations that wouldn't have been possible without this 1:1 time.

What Skills Was Voltron Teaching My Children?

The Voltron set comes in 16 bags.  Each of the bags are numbered.  Each lion comes with its own instruction booklet that is extremely colorful and easy to use.  This presented a pretty awesome learning experience (and challenge) for each child.

Identifying Numbers, Both Single and Two-Digit.

The first challenge for my little padawans was to identify the bags needed to complete their lion.  Each lion was packaged in multiple bags which brought on a challenge for not them not only as a young counter but for their very small attention span.  The Red and Green Lions were pretty easy to find bags for because they were in bags 1-5 but once we got into bags 11-15 it was a counting challenge.

Sorting by Shape and Color

LEGO VoltronThe next challenge was to dump the pieces onto the carpet and sort them by color.  I first gave each of them the task of separating the focus color (red, green, blue, yellow, black) into a big pile and then we sorted by shapes.  I even tested them a bit by throwing a red brick into the yellow pile just to see if they would catch the mistake.  (#Parenting101).  We then started learning how to properly identify each brick so that they could be #DaddysHelpers during the process.  Because of course… this toy was for … “them” to build.

Reading Numbers on a Page

One of the new adventures we were tackling this summer was the ability to read basic words on a page.  LEGO directions are PERFECT for this.  They have no words, but they have pages and pages of numbers.  This presented a fantastic opportunity to work with them on two digits and three-digit numbers.  I'm proud to say that my oldest can now read and understand three digit numbers thanks to Voltron (#Parenting101)

Taking Turns

Let's face it… when it comes to LEGO, it's hard to keep kids hands off the product.  If you ever want to do something with a little extra degree of difficulty, try building a complicated LEGO product with an extra pair of hands grabbing at pieces that you are looking for and building their own creation.  For that matter, increase the difficulty by adding SIX hands to the project.  Overall, I would say that any LEGO Master Educator could finish Voltron in a few hours … but with triplets … it was a 5-week project.

Are You A #ChildOfThe80s ? Check out this amazing new #VOLTRON @LEGO Building Set Today! Click To Tweet

Construction

Building Voltron once you have the Lions complete is no small task.  With the help of each child, we carefully constructed the lions and then put them in the position to form the Arms, Legs, Head and Torso and of course my favorite … WE FORMED THE BLAZING SWORD AND SHIELD! (#ChildOfThe80s)

Construction is Cool … But What About Coding?

This summer, not only did I … I mean my kids, have the opportunity to create the AMAZING Voltron robot but they also began to learn about coding and programming using LEGO Platforms such as LEGO Boost and LEGO Mindstorms.  Where these platforms are both robust and amazing to teach students about coding, programming, and linear thinking, they aren't quite right for 5-year-old PreK students.  This is why I was extremely excited to learn about a new project that is being released this school year by LEGO Education to help bring STEM Education, Problem Solving, and Programming skills into the hands of our youngest learners.

The Coding Express

This school year, LEGO Education will be releasing a new early learning solution designed to teach students all about coding and programming.  Built on the Duplo Brick system, The Coding Express comes complete with hundreds of pieces, an action-packed curriculum guide, a robust LEGO Education Early Learning Resource Center, and a pretty awesome mobile app.  I recently had the opportunity to check out this new set at a LEGO Education event in New York and I am excited about the possibilities.

One of the things that excite me about this set is the new color blocks called Action Bricks.  By inserting these pieces inside the tracks the students are able to program the train to do various tasks such as slow down, stop, and go in reverse.

I had the opportunity to speak with the Kate Latham, Student & Faculty Achievement Coach at Primrose Burlington in Burlington, MA. Kate is the teacher in the video above who also was on the design team for the lesson plans that come with this system.

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If your school district is looking to bring STEM education into the younger grades this year, I would highly recommend checking out the Coding Express and other great sets from LEGO Education.  We have been using these products with the EduTriplets this summer and they have provided a summer's worth of activities and adventures.

For more information, please check out these great resources from LEGO Education

About the author, Jeffrey

Jeff Bradbury, creator of TeacherCast, and father of the famous @EduTriplets is the Coordinator of Instructional Technology at Westwood Regional School District. Thanks for checking out TeacherCast today. Please take a moment to find me on all of my Social Media channels!