Present the problem, let them solve it.

What happens when you dump a pile of lego in the middle of a  group of Grade 8 students and provide them with the following problem:  Build a creative structure (whatever you want), the catch is you need to work together as a team and use as many as the pieces as possible.

This is exactly what we did one morning and the results were nothing short of fascinating.  Students learned valuable life lessons that went far beyond their final designs.  After the initial dump, no further instructions were required.  No spoon feeding, no suggestions of what could be made.

After initial intense small group discussions, students quickly sketched out ideas of what they would create and began to build.  HAH! Ya right, who am I kidding? Never happened, not in a million years. Kids dug into the Lego pile immediately, snapping pieces together, pulling them apart, discarding and replacing until ideas began to form and a structure in its roughest shape began to take shape. Some chose to work on their own, totally engrossed in their own creation until other members noticed and asked to join in. Others worked with their peers almost immediately and together began haphazardly building while yet others  noticed that there were particular pieces such as people or wheels and began to incorporate them into their initial developments.  A select few students quickly figured out that they could collaborate and trade pieces they required with other table groups.  It was a social learning experiment taking place in the simplest form in front of our very eyes.

There were no hands going up saying, “I don’t understand” or “What am I supposed to do again?”  Students had no difficulty getting started and if they didn’t like how their project was going there was no hesitation or shame in starting over. It was simply a given.

Students were given a problem to solve and solve it they did.  Collaboration, concentration, creativity and critical thinking were all taking place. Alliances were formed, solutions were discovered, small feats were celebrated and all around us students were engaged.  There wasn’t a single student in any of the four classrooms that wasn’t one hundred percent wholly involved in the task.

And in the end, students displayed a tremendous amount of pride in their creations.  A pile of Lego that grew and morphed into life lessons to be shared.

What problem will you give your students to solve?

Meet the Author

I feel so lucky that I get to live out my dream and teach Grade 8 Humanities and Leadership in Langley, British Columbia. I'm a co-creator of The Magic Classroom, a Digital Literacy Coach as well as a presenter for both my local School District 35 and AMLE 2015 (American Middle Level Education) in Columbus Ohio. My favourite things to do are laugh, read, celebrate “Aha” moments and eat. Not necessarily in that order.

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