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Summer Learning with Lego®

The Webster Groves Missouri School District offers a Summer Exploration Experience (SEE) for elementary students in grades first through fifth for five weeks at the beginning of the summer. Historically, this program has allowed teachers the opportunity to create their own curriculum based on Project Based Learning (PBL) methods. PBL is a “teaching method in which complex real-world problems are used as the vehicle to promote student learning of concepts and principles as opposed to direct presentation of facts and concepts.” All SEE teachers are trained in the PBL method of teaching before the summer session begins allowing for ample time to build a unit from scratch. Teachers can take the time to develop units that they can incorporate into their yearly curriculum or create a unit based on a topic of interest. The most important aspect of creating a PBL unit is that the teachers and their students have fun and learn a variety of concepts during their SEE sessions.

In the summer of 2022, I had the pleasure of working with two of my school librarian colleagues to create a unit based solely on Lego®. The idea was to create a unit that we could include into our library programs throughout the school year for 4th grade students. Our first step was to develop an overarching question so that our students had a solid base to return to when creating their end products. While developing our unit, we came up with the following question, “How can we, as engineers, design a machine to solve a daily task with Lego® using the design process?” We discussed the design process, invited engineers to speak with students, and completed several whole group tasks to cement their understanding.

All photos courtesy of Jenn Pupillo

Once our overarching question was discussed, we began the unit by talking about simple machines. We used library books, Epic! ebooks, PBS Kids videos, Lego® videos, Tinkercad, graphic organizers and field trips to our local Lego® store and the St. Louis Science Center to round out our resources. Over the next five weeks, we created learning stations in which our students rotated. One station was dedicated to reading and taking notes about simple machines, a second station was for building simple machines using specific builds from the Lego® Chain Reactions book, our third station was for watching videos and playing games specific to simple machines, and the final learning station was for building virtually using the online 3D building site, Tinkercad. Students rotated daily through each learning center for 3 1/2 weeks leaving the last week and a half for planning and building their Rube Goldberg problem solving machines.

The end results were an excellent culmination of all of the information students learned, tried, tested, and tried again over the five week summer session. The students not only learned how to design, create, test, ask questions, and improve their simple machine builds, but the experience solidified to our team of librarians that students’ understanding thrives and grows when given the opportunity to incorporate something as simple as a building tool like Lego® into their learning.

This post addresses the core competencies of I. Commitment to Client Group and III. Programming Skills.

Anne Link is an elementary school librarian at Bristol Elementary School and the K-12 Library Media Specialist Coordinator for the Webster Groves School District in Missouri. She has been a K-5 school librarian in the district for 12 years and LMS Coordinator for six years. Anne can be reached at

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