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LEGO has changed a lot since it was first invented. Alongside the original hands-on, no frills bricks we now have digital play and robotic models that can connect to computers using clever software – such as the fantastic WeDo Construction Set.
The set contains over 150 bits and pieces, including a motor, motion and tilt sensors, and the LEGO USB Hub. Children are able to build and then animate their models using intuitive drag and drop technology, making it an ideal resource for teaching control at KS2.
Both the WeDo Software and accompanying Activity Pack – the latter of which includes a digital ‘Getting Started’ guide with excellent building tips and programming examples – are both sold separately. The activities are divided into four themes of ‘Amazing Mechanisms’, ‘Wild Animals’, ‘Play Soccer’ and ‘Adventure Stories’; taken together, they’ll provide up to 24 hours of step-by-step instruction and project-based learning. Teacher notes, a glossary and building instructions are also included.
What I like most in the Activity Pack are the mini-movies that feature the humourous characters of Mia and Max. These films (there are 12 in total) set up and describe a problem to solve in less than a minute. My own favourites include ‘Goalkeeper’, ‘Airplane Rescue’, ‘Giant Escape’, ‘Dancing Birds’ and ‘Drumming Monkey’ – children will want to watch them over and over again.
Make no mistake, however. The robots are challenging to make, and will test children’s thinking, patience and stamina, but the learning curves and pain barriers are more than worth it. Children will enjoy rising to further challenges given the success of building one robot, especially when they can see what they can do to it.
Once children have made their robot, they can connect it up to a computer via the included USB Hub. The shrewdly-designed software will then allow them to program their creation and control its behaviour, sounds and responses via an easy to use drag-and-drop interface. The sense of achievement therefore strikes twice.
You can’t go far wrong with LEGO – but how accessible is it for whole-class purposes? An important consideration will be cost. a WeDo Construction Set will set you back, £79.99 and the Software and Activity Pack a further £54.99 (both excluding VAT). You’ll also need to factor in the need to buy more than one set for classroom use.
Despite the cost, however, there isn’t much else to pick fault with. The WeDo set is great because it teaches children so much – about working with simple machines, gears, levers, pulleys, transmission of motion, programming, using software, designing and creating a working model, measuring time and distance, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, estimating and introducing randomness with variables. That’s impressive – but more than all these things put together though, is the play aspect of LEGO. Play is at the heart of emotional wellbeing, making LEGO essentially good for your mental health.
THE VERDICT: Cross-curricular heaven
LEGO is fun, challenging, rewarding and engaging with universal appeal. Connect, construct, contemplate and continue – the WeDo Construction Set has it all.
I get the feeling that if I were on a desert island and I could only bring one object with me, then a set of LEGO would be a hot contender…
Reviewed by John Dabell
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