Who doesn’t love building with bricks!?
People of all ages like building with bricks! Parents buy large blocks for their toddlers to help them develop motor skills. Older children are often given smaller bricks because they enjoy building things. There are even Lego brick sets for adults!
Building with bricks is engineering from the get-go!
When building with bricks, people of all ages are thinking about what materials work best for what is being created. People think about what color, size, and shape block will be the most desirable. Children naturally learn that the first way to build something isn’t always the most effective way. Kids commonly take blocks apart and put them back together in a different way to make their creations even better!
Doesn’t this sound like the engineering and design process?
Ask – What is the problem, or what am I trying to make?
Imagine – Generate ideas.
Plan – What materials will work best?
Create – Build a model
Improve – How can I make my creation better?
Enhancing social skills
Many times, children are building with bricks by themselves. However, even the shyest of students are usually eager to talk about their creations.
Other times, students are working together to build something and this takes a lot of teamwork and collaboration!
Simple STEM ideas
There are so many easy STEM activities for elementary students that can be done with Lego bricks.
STEM Ideas for Primary Grades
In the earliest grades, students can build towers. Who can build the tallest tower? Tower building can also be turned into math! Count how many bricks tall the tower is. Measure how many inches tall is it? How many bricks are a three-block tower and a five-block tower all together?
Ask young students to build a certain letter or a letter that is important to them and then explain why. The same thing can be done with numbers. As students progress, ask them to build words.
In kindergarten, my students learned about hermit crabs. I showed the video Harry the Lego Hermit Crab. After that, I asked students to build a Lego shelter for a hermit crab. Our “hermit crab” was a cotton ball. Students had ten minutes to build a shell that would keep their “hermit crab” inside. “The crab” had to be seen, but it couldn’t fall out when the shell was picked up. The range of shelters that the kids created was amazing! This type of project can be done for so many types of animals or even plants!
Brick Building Ideas for Older Students
Getting to Know Your Students
At the beginning of the year, ask students to build models of themselves. I did this activity with third graders. Some students built freestanding models, while others built on a baseplate. No two were alike! Better yet, students were more than happy to write about their model after that!
Give a baggie of mini Lego blocks to each child in your class. One day a week “build and share.” Give students 5 minutes to create something that you ask them to make. It might be something such as, “build something that represents one thing you did last weekend,” “build something that shows me something you learned this week,” or “make what you had for dinner last night.” It is surprising how creative students are! After the time is up, ask students to fold their hands in their lap until it is their time to share. Then, students tell their classmates what they made and what it represents.
Building Bricks at Centers
Use building bricks at centers. Put seasonal task cards and recording sheets there. Students choose an item on the task card to make and then they draw a picture of their model. Older students measure and record the height and width of their model. Pictured below: pumpkin, rainbow, and insect.
Ask children to build mazes on a baseplate that will allow a marble to get from one end of the board to the other as they tilt the board back and forth (like a labyrinth).
Designing Brick Cars
Challenge students design a brick car that can travel the farthest once it is placed at the top of a ramp. Students work in teams to make the car. The car is placed at the top of the ramp (can be a book propped on a lower shelf or with a block under one end). Then, it is let go. Place a tape measure on the floor from the bottom edge of the book out. Students record how far their car has traveled. Each set of students gets three trials with their car. They watch as other teams let their cars go. When all the teams are finished, students go back and try to improve their cars based on what they have observed.
Encourage students to build just about anything!
When given material and time constraints, building becomes a STEM challenge. This is a zoo that one group made.
Imagine! The possibilities are endless! All this, while building fine-motor skills and spatial awareness.