In November 2017, I randomly RSVP’d to the release of the LEGO Education Steam Park and became an instant fan. Many people don’t know that LEGO Education is separate from the retail stores, leading to faulty conclusions that kids are simply building “fun sets” while in school. In fact, when I returned from New York City to my child’s elementary school, I worked with the principal and donated the Steam Park for the kindergarten classes. Since 2017, my relationship with LEGO Education has blossomed, giving me the opportunity to cover their 2018 Maker Announcement and 2019 Rebuild the World Announcement where I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing LEGO Education President Esben Staerk Jørgensen. Over the years, I’ve learned one important thing about LEGO Education—the company continually innovates to meet students, teachers, and parents where they are. So, when LEGO Education offered to send me their new BricQ Motion set for free and give me a demo class, I knew that I would have to take them up on the offer. As always, LEGO Education astounded me with their ability to innovate on their well-known bricks and provide another unique learning opportunity.
What is LEGO Education’s BricQ Motion?
At first glance, BricQ Motion looks like your average set of normal LEGO bricks. However, according to the LEGO Education press release:
BricQ Motion resources are introductory learning solutions that enable teachers and students to feel more confident in STEAM learning by removing digital barriers and teaching physical science through fun and engaging sports-themed lessons for grades K-8.
What does that mean? Well, it means that these sets do much of what LEGO Education’s other sets do but without the technology that can feel intimidating for students, parents, and teachers. Instead of incorporating coding, like their Prime sets, BricQ Motion provides an entirely hands-on analog experience. However, that doesn’t mean that these sets are outdated or out of touch. In fact, the brilliance of these sets is that they teach the same principles as the other STEAM-focused sets without requiring the users to be digital natives.
What makes BricQ Motion different from retail LEGO collections?
Although at first glance, the BricQ Motion box looks like every other big box of LEGO bricks, these are uniquely created for STEAM education. For example, the below picture looks like what you’d get in a LEGO Store:
On closer inspection, those two black 2 x 6 pegged bricks in the bottom middle are not available in retail sets. These weighted bricks are used as part of the build we did during the demo to help kids learn to hypothesize, test, and reflect on how weight impacts motion.
What is the educational purpose of LEGO Education’s BricQ Motion?
I’ve spent a lot of time discussing pedagogy with various LEGO Education folks, and every time I’ve found myself impressed with the level of thought put into these sets. Whether through their Maker or Rebuild the World campaigns, LEGO Education focuses on giving children the ability to make the types of mistakes that lead to a growth mindset. During their Rebuild the World campaign, LEGO Education focused on teaching resiliency, the ability to make a mistake then learn from it. A growth mindset is how we help children learn resiliency. According to Mindset Works:
Dr. Dweck coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Therefore they put in extra time and effort, and that leads to higher achievement.
In other words, the old adage holds true, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” With BricQ Motion, students work together to build, tell stories, and experiment with ideas. Ultimately, these are the foundations upon which teachers can build a growth mindset and enable children to be resilient.
What do kids think about BricQ?
If you’ve been a parent dealing with remote learning during 2020, I’m fairly certain you can agree that getting your child to do anything that isn’t watching their favorite television show is a special level of misery. However, LEGO bricks have a special magic to them that can’t be quantified. The BricQ Motion set incorporates that magic and brings with it the type of learning experiences that parents (and teachers!) love. But, don’t take my word for it, watch GeekKid L interact with Dr. Jenny Nash’s lesson, and make sure to wait for the very last comment kiddo made:
Did you hear that little whisper of awe at the end? “This is so cool…” Yeah, kiddo, you’re right. It really is.
What does a parent think about BricQ?
Clearly, I’m a fan. Even if LEGO Education never asked me to work with them again, I’d still be a fan. In fact, as much as I love regular LEGO sets (minus stepping on them—I don’t love that so much), I love LEGO Education sets even more.
Every set is created with teachers and purposeful learning in mind, but they continue to innovate their approach. They manage to find the gaps and potential barriers to adopting hands-on STEAM by listening to teachers. BricQ Motion is no exception.
Dr. Jenny Nash, Head of Education Impact Team for LEGO Education in the U.S., explained to me:
Teachers are often concerned about keeping pieces orderly in the classroom. This is why we have designed the sets with easy organization like color-coding the pieces in the trays, having multiple trays to spread pieces out, and making them easy to find and clean up. We also share many classroom management tips with teachers through our getting started experience and our professional development sessions—like having students build on the lid of their set.
Some educators express concern if their students will be able to do the builds and lessons and the answer is absolutely! We carefully create sets that are developmentally appropriate for each age group to ensure students are ready to physically build with the materials and cognitively work with the ideas and concepts. We also test all lessons in classrooms with teachers and students to ensure the learning outcomes are ready to be met.
As a parent and former educator, this is exactly the type of purposeful product development that I want to see my child’s school adopting.
How can BricQ help teachers manage remote learning?
Ahhh, but right now, many of our kids aren’t in school. Many are learning from home as towns, cities, counties, and states remain in COVID-19 lockdowns as part of stay-at-home orders. So, does this mean that BricQ Motion has no place? The answer, because it’s LEGO Education, is no. Despite the distributed nature of kids’ current learning experiences, BricQ Motion sets offer the type of learning that kids need more now than ever.
And LEGO Education takes that into consideration as well. According to Dr. Nash,
We always want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to support teachers and especially this year. We’ve put together a variety of resources to ensure we are providing teachers with the tools they need to teach amidst all this change. To help educators adapt LEGO Education’s lessons and solutions for in the classroom, at-home or a hybrid of the two, we’ve put together guidance for remote and online teaching and tips for collaboration. You can find many of the resources on our Virtual Learning Resources page.
Some of the suggestions we think have been most beneficial for teachers to keep students engaged when doing hybrid learning with LEGO Education solutions, is to have students engage in hands-on activity before a video chat starts, which will help them be more engaged during the meeting. For example, each student pre-build with LEGO Education solutions at home and then create student discussion groups by breaking the class into different video chat groups to build and discuss what they have learned together. This lesson can then be easily extended to further learning after the call has ended.
LEGO Education looks to help teachers by developing lesson plans that align with core curriculum standards. For example, the Gymnast lesson that we did comes with detailed plans, including hybrid learning resources and the alignment to education standards:
- NGSS MS-PS2-2
- ISTE: 4c, 6c, 7c
With teachers looking to make their classes more than “another Zoom meeting,” LEGO Education offers ways through the current struggles.
How can BricQ help parents manage remote learning?
I won’t lie to you. I specifically asked about how this can help me, as a parent, better manage my middle schooler’s remote learning. Look, I work full time, have my kid in hybrid school, and really just want my life to be easier. However, none of that looks like it’s going to be changing any time in the relatively near future. So, where do parents fit into the LEGO Education plan?
Again, Dr. Nash has an answer for us:
As a parent myself, I know I’ve been more involved in my daughter’s education this year than ever before. Our children are on screens more during remote learning and stepping away and getting a sensory break by getting hands-on is essential! I’ve seen with my own daughter how getting hands-on with LEGO Education solutions keeps her engaged after many hours of screen time. BricQ Motion is a great starter set to help students continue learning the concepts they would in the classroom and so much more all while having a moment to step away and have a sensory break. For partnering with your child’s teacher, I’d suggest understanding from the teacher what simple questions you can ask your child as they build. Asking questions and having your child explain what he/she is doing will help them think critically while getting hands-on. I’d also suggest to not take over for your child or try to do it for them—make sure you are working as a partner and learning alongside them.
Partnering with our children’s teachers is more essential now than ever before. What did I learn going through the demo lesson? My kid wanted none of my help. In fact, when I tried to help, my kid snatched the build away from me. If I hadn’t been sitting in the video call, I certainly could have gone off to another room and my child would have been learning without any arguments. As a pandemic parent, I can’t think of any other time this has happened. And, if we’re being honest with each other as pandemic parents, the more engaged our children are, the better off we are because we might be able to sneak a tiny bit of calm and peace in the midst of chaos.