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According to LEGO Education’s manifesto [PDF], children must be supported to be ‘Systematically creative, active and collaborative learners, helping each other to learn and play through the shared language of LEGO bricks.’
LEGO can be used to help join logic and reasoning with creativity, and provide children with the opportunity to build the things they see in the real world, experiment with their surroundings and get hands-on with their environment. LEGO play and learning sets are just the job for helping children learn more about the communities they live in.
The Community Starter Set from LEGO is a sturdy tub of delight. It contains 1907 pieces, including bricks, wheels, windows, platforms, and other goodies for children to explore and create community life. Children can make a wind turbine, a windmill, a crane, a petrol pump, a bike shed, playground equipment, houses, shops, cars, a picnic table, a swimming pool, a zoo and more.
The set also includes 15 mini-figures, which are ideal for story-telling and for discussing who lives and works in the community. These elements can be used to set the scene for learning more about ‘My Home’, ‘Travel’, and ‘The seaside’, and for helping children express their ideas, feelings and emotions about citizenship and the world at large.
The pieces of LEGO inside this set offer a range of opportunities for building on children’s own initiatives and interests, for working as a team, problem-solving and for kick-starting creative discussions. On the practical side, it’s great to see the inclusion of brick separators for helping little fingers prize apart pieces that seem inseparable.
The whole set is designed to last for years and even with heavy usage LEGO has the ability to keep on going and won’t biodegrade in classroom terms within your lifetime.
What I think is missing from this resource is a user guide, with no supplied notes or illustrations to speak of for parents, teachers or children. Although free-play is expected when using LEGO, this starter set needs something in the way of ideas about how to use its wonderful bits and pieces – some building instructions, say, or ideas for activities, prompts and challenges.
LEGO Education teaching resources embody a ‘Four C’ framework of Connect, Construct, Contemplate and Continue, through which learners can experiment and explore in order to gain new knowledge – but you wouldn’t necessarily know that unless you go online. Teachers have a key role to play here, but the starter set doesn’t provide the information needed regarding how to facilitate a system for learning, or what to do to get the most out of using LEGO.
The only other gripe I have with this resource is the price of £151.99 – prohibitive for some pockets, likely to prompt careful consideration for some schools and bound to exclude a few children from having a pile of it at home.
The Verdict: Community spirit
LEGO always will be a winner. It blurs the lines between childhood and adulthood and gets everyone thinking and playing. LEGO continues to be one of the most popular concrete educational toys the world has ever seen, and continues to connect people together as a community of happy and active learners like nothing else.
Reviewed by John Dabell
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