School of the Minds

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Build to Express LEGO

by Victoria Long (Trained Jr. FLL Coach and Registered Volunteer for S.C. Competitions)

$75/student/semester. Maximum of 8-10 students for the class.

From LEGO Education website:

BuildToExpress is a groundbreaking teaching process that combines a facilitative teaching method with hands-on manipulatives. The technique engages students in higher-order thinking by combining LEGO model building with open-ended, nonjudgmental questions. Learners are challenged with building tasks related to a subject area and then use reflective language to explain what they have built and how it applies to the topic at hand. This process of hands-on building combined with dialogue and reflection enables students to develop a deeper understanding of what they are learning. The BuildToExpress process helps engage students with multiple learning styles.

Appropriate for all students across many subject areas, BuildToExpress encourages educators to facilitate a stimulating learning experience and helps to cultivate a positive environment and achieve cross-curricular targets across the board. Andrew Charland, a teacher at A.B. Combs Elementary, has been using BuildToExpress in his fourth and fifth-grade classrooms for two years. He explains, “In just a quick 20-minute brainstorming, I can fit a LEGO® build to any standard and usually it ends up being cross-curricular. I had a build about a poem, and you would think that that is a literacy standard, but it also became a social studies standard, a little bit of a history lesson. So it kind of naturally branches out for you and hits the cross-curriculum.”

In addition, BuildToExpress has been successfully implemented not only across subject areas but also in a wide variety of classrooms. Dr. Whitney Oakley, Principal of Eastlawn Elementary, shares, “We’ve had implementation in regular education settings, special education settings, upper grades, lower grades, even a little bit in pre-K are getting started. So, we’ve had technology integration, academically gifted students integrating, our teachers with students of limited English proficiency have had great successes in terms of building kids’ vocabulary because they are having to justify and talk about what they are building – and they (the students) want to – so we’ve had lots of success.”  

Some of the success of BuildToExpress has been attributed to the love children share for LEGO bricks. Many of the teachers using the program report that when they pull out the Expressions Sets, student engagement and creativity soar. Though LEGO bricks are an important component of BuildToExpress, all educators agree that effective facilitation is the heart of the process. Good facilitators ask questions in a way that opens the minds of their young students and that can make the difference between bored or inspired, passive or active, and inhibited or liberated learners. This is why BuildToExpress is offered as a professional development program.

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