Collaborative Inquiry through the Junior First Lego League
Junior First Lego aims to capture young children's curiosity and direct it towards discovering the wonders of science and technology. This program features a real-world scientific concept to be explored through research, teamwork, construction, and imagination. It also features a real-world challenge, to be explored through research, critical thinking and imagination. Each yearly challenge is based on a different theme and has two main parts, the LEGO Model and a Show Me Poster.
Each year the Junior First Lego League has a theme, which the students use to research and learn about their topic of choice. This year the topic was Education, last year it was Natural Disasters. Students use the topic to create questions to base research on. Using specialized Lego pieces, students created a model of their learning that included simple machines, motors, gears, and pulleys. Students create posters and share their learning with others at Expos around the Pell Board.
Introducing the Project and Reinforcing Team Work Norms
The unit started with an introductory lesson in which all students were given a small amount of Lego and encouraged to do mini tasks. Students were asked to try and make a tall structure, a model of himself or herself doing an activity and to create a circus acrobat. Students’ creativity was reinforced. They were informed that if they were proud of their task and could explain it, they were successful.
The next lesson was used to narrow the focus of the topic question “Education“ into a more manageable topic. Through class discussion the students were asked to define what education was and where it took place. The class made up a list of all the places where they believed that education took place. Schools, parks, museums, recreation centers, Homes, Computer Labs, Ice Rinks were all suggested by the students. The students were separated into 5 research groups that used KWL charts to frame questions about their topic.
Exploring and Research
Collaborating with the Teacher Librarian and the ISSP/ESL teachers the class continued to refine their questions and started to research. Students used library books, videos, the Internet, and interviews to find out facts to answer their questions.
Producing a Presentation
The science strands of Structures and Forces were addressed in the building of the students’ models. The students needed to use their previous knowledge of how to make stable structures and how forces can travel.
The students created tri-fold display boards to present their information. Students used colour, media from the Internet, handwriting, and word processing to display their information.
Oral presentations were created and practised by the students.
Sharing our Learning and Celebrating
In March a Junior First Lego League Expo was held in the gym of the school. Other teams from the school and from other schools from around the Peel Board joined together to share learning and celebrate. High School students from Fletcher’s Meadow Secondary School’s Robotics team interviewed the students. The students readily explained their projects and demonstrated their machines to adults and other children. The students were very proud of their accomplishments and their learning.
Students used self-reflection and team reflections to evaluate how they worked together. Oral Visual and Writing rubrics were used to evaluate the final products of the teams.
Extension of the Learning
The sharing of information was very rewarding for the Grade 3 students. It helped the students to solidify their understanding, to build confidence in their knowledge and to share knowledge with others.
After the first year of using the Junior First Lego League I have become a big advocate. I ran a workshop for teachers at the Science Symposium in the fall. I included two other teachers in the league from Worthington and I have hosted two very successful expositions at the school.
The hands-on science experience has encouraged the students to look towards other opportunities to participate in science opportunities. Our Lego robotics team and Peel Technical Skills teams had students who had participated the Junior Lego League Classroom unit.