LEGO has always been a staple of children’s toys and many parents’ foot has felt the pain of a LEGO brick. The colorful bricks have been an inspiration for everything from towers to bridges to cars and houses, allowing girls and boys of all ages to explore their imaginations through play.
Many children grew up playing with LEGO toys and the company has understood that times are changing, so their iconic bricks are changing with them. Olivia, a grade 2 pupil, is one of those students that LEGO is trying to appeal to as they promote STEM-based subjects through robotics hardware and software.
What is LEGO WeDo? LEGO WeDo is an educational set that combines LEGO bricks and software, introducing computational thinking and engineering principles through projects and an inquiry-based approach to learning. The focus of LEGO WeDo is to encourage students to explore STEM subjects in a fun and engaging manner.
The computational thinking learned through LEGO WeDo is done by introducing students to the concept of coding. These skills are vital in a real-world setting and the projects available are specifically designed to engage students’ abilities in robotics and coding.
LEGO WeDo 2.0 is aimed at elementary students through easy-to-use software and curriculum-relevant challenges. LEGO WeDo 2.0 is the successor to the original LEGO WeDo, a part of the LEGO Education Junior Robotics range of products.
The projects in LEGO WeDo 2.0 deal with a range of subjects, including physical, life, earth and space science. These projects provide 40 hours of engaged classroom time with guides for students and teachers. LEGO WeDo 2.0 starts students with easier projects that lay the foundation for more complex projects as the students begin the master the program.
The set-up of LEGO WeDo 2.0 revolves around key skills needed for this century like critical thinking, teamwork and problem-solving. As LEGO states, WeDo 2.0 is supposed to make science and computing come to life. As LEGO WeDo is aimed at students from elementary school until grade 4, it makes Olivia a perfect candidate to use the program.
In a society that unfortunately encourages more boys to participate in STEM subjects than girls, LEGO WeDo 2.0 is a key reminder that all genders can and should be exposed to engineering toys that encourage coding and computational skills from a young age, building students’ self-esteem as they excel at a foundational level.
What are the Benefits of LEGO WeDo 2.0?
With all the readily available technology that exists around us right now, many children start using phones and tablets even before they begin to read. It is our responsibility to harness their curiosity and technical expertise in a positive way.
In a competitive society, it is vital for children to learn skills that will help them be a part of this connected world. This involves gaining skills related to STEM subjects, using programs to solve problems, and computational thinking. This is where LEGO WeDo comes in.
Olivia is a girl who enjoys all kinds of toys but she hates that her toy aisle only has dolls, tea-sets and fashion accessory toys for girls, available in a multitude of pink and purple shades. The only section that does not look like it’s catering for girls is the LEGO section, where colorful toys remind children that LEGO is not limited to a specific gender.
On the most basic level, LEGO has been shown to develop creativity, aid in solving puzzles and develop logical thinking skills. However, LEGO WeDo adds extra skills to the process, allowing students like Olivia to gain even more while playing:
When one buys a LEGO WeDo kit, you will notice that one kit can be used by two people. Sharing fosters communication and collaboration, which are important skills in an interconnected world.
Students usually begin by solving easier problems and completing basic projects, but the LEGO WeDo projects build up slowly as students achieve more and more. Not only does this lead to higher self-esteem, it also allows them to show greater ability over time as they solve more complex problems.
While LEGO WeDo does provide step-by-step instructions on how to complete projects, those are not the only way to learn through the program. Many problems can be solved with alternate solutions and LEGO WeDo encourages students to think critically and outside the box to find answers. This skill will be vital in a society that values innovators.
LEGO WeDo is an educational toy that shows both boys and girls what they are capable of creating when they put their minds to something.
Surveys have shown that young girls like Olivia need the confidence to achieve lifelong learning goals. Educational toys like LEGO WeDo, which are hands-on, support student success.
What is LEGO Education?
LEGO Education is the division of LEGO that is responsible for designing educational toys and the accompanying lessons and projects for kits like LEGO WeDo 2.0. LEGO Education Solutions use play as a method of exposing children to the world of math, science, and languages at an age-appropriate level.
LEGO Education Solutions also continue through primary and secondary school, engaging students with hands-on educational experiences that are vital in a society that values knowledge alongside skills while enhancing their academic strengths.
Olivia is not a fan of math classes. It’s not because she doesn’t like math, it’s just that the work is a little boring and tedious. She has a strong grasp of addition and subtraction already and her teacher has not really been able to challenge her much.
Her best friend Mark does not like mathematics either, but only because he finds it challenging. When their teacher is too busy to help them, Olivia tries to guide Mark where she can but her math class has never been a place for collaboration.
Many students in STEM classrooms may find work to be unengaging or too difficult, which discourages effort and further exploration. The purpose of LEGO Education is to bridge the gap between the theoretical and the practical.
Students who use LEGO WeDo have stated that they found the work to be engaging and fun. They also feel that they learn a lot and the program encourages them to learn more.
LEGO WeDo allows them to engage with fellow classmates, work collaboratively and solve problems in a logical way. A large majority of them also stated that they love working together in the manner. This point of view is vital, as the joy of learning will only increase student engagement and academic results. (source)
LEGO Education is made for school students and focuses on teachers, with 40 hours of content related to WeDo 2.0 that is aligned with elementary school science curricula and Next Generation Science Standards.
LEGO Education’s lesson plans are also aligned to HeadStart and National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) guidelines. The idea behind the lessons is to expose students to scientific processes and LEGO Education has done a good job of modeling them in a way young kids can understand.
Another positive of LEGO Education is the user-friendly design of WeDo kits. Students do not generally struggle with assembling and disassembling LEGO kits and the software is also easy to use, even for very young students.
It also encourages documentation of reflections and exploration processes, allowing students to use a range of media including text, audio, and video. The documents can be shared by students with their teachers or peers, providing further opportunities for collaboration. (source)
When Olivia’s teachers introduced LEGO WeDo 2.0 into their math and science classes, it opened up so many avenues for teamwork, imagination and critical thinking.
Olivia is never bored when the LEGO kits come out, Mark feels a sense of accomplishment while building and coding, and teachers across the country have reported that they have seen students jumping in excitement when they get a chance to play and solve problems with LEGO Education systems.
Using LEGO to Learn Coding
Coding is something that has slowly been introduced into school curricula and is a vital part of living in the 21st Century. Coding opens up a world of endless possibilities. The younger school-aged children are exposed to coding practices, the easier their technological advancement will be.
With simple toys like a train set in LEGO’s Coding Express, students are taught the basics of sequencing, looping and conditional coding. LEGO WeDo 2.0 involves computational thinking that includes decomposition, generalization, algorithmic thinking, evaluating and abstraction.
These skills are generally only developed later in students’ academic careers but Olivia and Mark are going to have a much easier time grasping these concepts without even realizing it because they are actually doing it instead of talking about it.
LEGO WeDo Lessons
When Olivia and Mark started using LEGO WeDo 2.0, they began with a Getting Started Project which helped to teach them the basic functions of the kit, divided into four easy-to-understand lessons. There are also eight Guided Projects that are explained through step-by-step instructions and eight Open Projects that provide students with a more open-ended experience, while still being linked to curriculum standards.
All projects are divided into three phases. The Explore phase, which is meant to connect students to the task and create a context for them, is followed by the Create phase where students get to build and program the project.
While LEGO WeDo is strongly linked to STEM subjects, it includes Language Arts as the final phase is the Share phase, in which students document and present their projects. Each project takes approximately three hours but teachers can modify it as necessary.
When Olivia’s class was learning about the metamorphosis of a frog, lessons could only be done by reading and looking at images of frogs. Her class was considered to be too young to examine the anatomy of the amphibian and while their classroom pet frog Kermit was interesting, the excitement began to wane on the subject quite quickly.
However, Guided Project 4 of the WeDo 2.0 curriculum looks at the frog’s metamorphosis and Olivia, Mark and their classmates were able to model the frog’s metamorphosis through LEGO representations and identify the characteristics of each stage.
Their teacher, Mr. Shepard, was able to see the varying levels of engagement when his students were presented with basic chalk and talk techniques of teaching, and how students were a lot more excited when able to use LEGO to bring the metamorphosis of frogs to life, figuratively speaking.
Not only did students work well together, but they were also helpful and their ideas presented during the Share stage were interesting, relevant and engaging. When the students start working on their next science project of Space Exploration, he would not return to the tried-and-tested (but boring) ‘make a representation of our galaxy’ project, but use the Space Exploration Open Project to bring space a little closer to home. (source)
The LEGO WeDo 2.0 kit provides great entertainment for children and Olivia and Mark are no exception. Studies have shown that students who are exposed to robotics generally develop more profound and sophisticated thought processes, compared to students who just play without thinking about the reasoning behind it. (source)
Olivia now enjoys math and science class more, even when they are not using LEGO WeDo projects, as she is now able to engage with the work more actively. Olivia asks questions and thinks about different ways to solve problems.
Her confidence has increased substantially as a result. She is so captivated by the concept of LEGO Robotics that she has asked to be able to do more extracurricular activities related to LEGO. Mr. Shepard suggested the First Lego League (FLL), and Olivia is hooked.
The FLL is a global robotics competition, which is built around theme-based challenges to engage children in research, problem-solving, coding and engineering. The FLL spans a hundred countries, with almost 39,000 teams (and their accompanying robots) made up of more than 310,000 participants.
The challenge presented by the FLL is to build a better world. This is done through innovation and bringing communities together to build a more sustainable future. (source) Olivia is lucky to be one of the younger participants in the league and after finding out what previous teams have achieved, she is excited to begin.
Since the FLL was founded in 1998, their teams have competed in challenges relating to the ocean, Mars, climate, and food and animals, amongst many others. Teams work towards fixing real-world problems, and the 2015 winners created the Styro-Filter, which is a device that turns Styrofoam waste into activated carbon that can be used to purify water.
This product is currently awaiting patent but the real-world implications are immense, as the Styro-Filter not only reduces landfill waste, but can also purify water in areas that do not have water-sanitation facilities.
For Mark, the World Robot Olympiad (WRO) is his choice of extramural activity. The WRO is a global competition that spans 65 countries and contains different categories with different age groups. The WRO focuses on students’ ability to understand and manipulate robots and competition rules state that only LEGO products should be used to build robots, barring some third-party elements that are allowed.
These competitions are meant to test students’ understanding of programming, their ability to complete tasks and adjust to “surprise rules” which test the adaptability of their robots. (source)
Real-World Need for Coders
As mentioned before, there is a range of benefits that children gain by learning how to code and program. With technology being used in every industry in the world, coding is a skill that will always be needed.
By allowing children to learn and enjoy coding from a young age, they will gain skills that will make them creative, dynamic innovators and entrepreneurs. These statistics are also a reminder of the importance of coding:
- 830 million young people, representing 80% of the youth population in 104 counties are online. The youth will be at the forefront of technological inventions, not only as consumers but as producers and creators. (source)
- Only 45% of high schools in the US teach coding and computer science. This should emphasize the need for programming and robotics in elementary and primary schools.
- 58% of new jobs in STEM will be in computing but only 10% of STEM graduates are in Computer Science. This will leave a large gap in jobs that will need to be filled. Computing jobs are also the number 1 source of new jobs in the US.
- $1.67 million is the lifetime earnings of a computer science major, compared to $1.19 million of an average college graduate. (source)
LEGO WeDo 2.0 is a technological innovation that expects students to be better. While emphasizing 21st-century skills, it prepares students for a world in which their knowledge and expertise are required and rewarded. Even if Olivia and Mark never end up in the Computer Science field, the skills they gained from LEGO education will serve them well long into the future.