Heron Bridge College have been involved in distributing Lego Play Boxes as part of their mission and outreach programmes. In the last 2 years, Heron Bridge have distributed over 180 boxes to various communities as well as training the participants on the Lego programme. The boxes are used mainly for the beginning of more formal learning or perceptual skill-based learning, involving numeracy and literacy. The boxes contain Duplo Lego and have a mixture of stuff in them, every box is different.
I’ve always seen Lego as a great imagination stimulator for children of all ages and knew that there must of course be educational benefits to it, but this was a general idea and as to the specifics I was, well, in the dark. So, at Heron Bridge College’s latest outreach in Kwanzimakwe with the Siyasizas in June I sat in on the session with teacher, Teresa Porter, and learnt some of the fundamental ‘building blocks’ of learning with Lego.
Lego and Working with Numbers
Counting is maybe the most basic and fundamental lesson presented, because of the tactility of the blocks children are better engaged when counting. On the block, itself there are holes and stubs that can be counted too. Depending on the size of the block these will vary and so children can learn to differentiate between the numbers. For example, a longer block may have 8 stubs whereas a smaller rectangular block will only have 4.
Arithmetic is very prevalent as well, Teresa demonstrates that by asking a child to add two blocks to a pile that already has four blocks the use of addition will be prompted. Likewise, by removing a block from the pile and demonstrates subtraction. For many children at an ECD level this might be a complex concept, but by allowing them to count the blocks in front of them during the process it creates early exposure to arithmetic which can only improve understanding for later.
Another component in the numbers game is explaining the principle of more and less. For example, a pile of 6 blocks has more blocks than a pile which only contains three blocks.
Colours and Shapes of Lego
Most Lego sets carry a well distributed colour palette of blocks, including variations of colours, for example a dark green and a light green. Identifying the different colours with the children is the first step, once they understand the colour of the block they can be asked to identify other objects which are the same or similar colour. This gets children to move around the classroom and might even prompt an outside ‘field’ trip to try and match colours in everyday objects to those of the blocks.
Children can also be asked to identify similar blocks in terms of size, shape and/or colour. For me, this was such a critical element of learning as it gets children involved in sorting which forms the foundation for categorising. As we know, categorising is a fundamental skill that allows people to process, comprehend and store information. In fact, it’s a ‘fundamental’ to learning in itself. Children can be asked to identify one trait that they need to copy, either by being asked to sort the blocks based on colours alone or based on the size of the block. For more advanced sorting teachers can combine block size and colour. This is a great group activity too as was demonstrated when Teresa had us all sort the blocks into colour groups.
Identifying Patterns with Lego
Teresa explains how patterns are everywhere around us. Identifying patterns, like categorising, is a fundamental learning skill. Lego can be used to develop the foundation of pattern identification and building. A pattern of two different coloured blocks following a sequence is the simplest form. For example, red, blue, red, blue, red, blue etc. Adding in an extra colour or a variation in the quantity of one of the colours will make the pattern more advanced, such as red, blue, green, red, blue, green or red, red, blue, red, red, blue etc.
Building Lego Stories
Of course, the best part of the Lego is transforming all those blocks into a creation, stacking and packing them on top of one another. Combining facilitated building with storytelling, exercises an excellent use of the imagination. Children can be asked to build an animal from the blocks and describe it to the class, or maybe even ask them to build where they live. Not only are the required to problem solve as they put their creation together, but describing it promotes language too.
Following the lessons from Teresa and her team, I chatted to some of the Siyasizas to get their feedback on how Lego has enhanced learning within the schools and creches that Siyakwazi is involved with. The results show that Lego has helped improve communication and socialising skills as many exercises are done as group activities. Creativity development, improving fine motor and building self-esteem and confidence are other examples of improvements that have been noticed in classrooms that use the Lego programme. Teachers are also benefiting with the Lego programme. There are so many activities that can be performed with the boxes and children are excited at the idea of playing with the blocks and so are engaged and participative from the beginning. After all kids will be kids!
Contact Siyakwazi to find out more about getting involved in Community Outreach programmes