Build smart

How a school in the Nad Al Sheba community is pioneering LEGO learning


If you build it, they will come.” So whispered a ghostly voice to Kevin Costner’s baseball coach in Field of Dreams (if you’re too young to remember it, download it now on your smartphone). And, it seems. someone has been whispering in the ears of the folks behind Dubai’s Rising School, who have recently taken an innovative approach to the education services within their community – with an idea that will no doubt appeal to your kids, and will also do them a world of good, too.

There are, as we know, many different ways that children can learn. And the educators at Rising School have always been committed to exploring new ways to engage with students in a hands-on and meaningful way. And if you want hands-on, then is there anything better than LEGO? Yes, LEGO! Or, more specifically, we should say, LEGO Education.

For Rising School is now an official partner with LEGO Education in the UAE, using official products to ignite enthusiastic, effective and lifelong learning, and build an exciting new way of teaching at the same time. In using LEGO bricks to turn theoretical ideas into actual models that can be touched and interacted with, the process can help foster real learning in a much more engaging way. Since 1932, LEGO has been one of the planet’s most popular toys, but it turns out its use in learning can be invaluable, too. (No word yet, sadly, on how your Star Wars toys can be employed for use in history lessons but, trust us, we are working on a solution as we speak.)

Gags aside, some of the ways in which LEGO can help kids include taking abstract concepts and turning them in to tangible models, showing students how to work together to solve problems, allowing them to be hands-on with their learning, and encouraging 21st Century skills that can be applied in the classroom and beyond.

“Using LEGO in the classroom is fun and interactive,” says Dr. Michael Bartlett, Executive Principal of Rising School Dubai. “It allows students to visualise problems and work collaboratively to find solutions. Lessons are no longer just about a teacher sharing information to a class, but allowing students to fulfil their potential by working together and furthering cognitive ability through practical, interactive tasks.”

And the results? “We are seeing real engagement with our students from using LEGO products,” says Bartlett. “And have found students have a far greater understanding of the underlying messages of the lessons.”

LEGO Education, meanwhile, makes it easy for the teachers at Rising School – an American school based in the Nad Al Sheba 4 community – to incorporate it into their lessons, offering teacher guides, lesson plans, activities and assessments. Rising School also trains members of staff in ‘LEGO Best Practices’, a professional development programme that ensures teachers and students are successful in using LEGO bricks and technology in the classroom in the best way.

Students in grades K-5 are able to discover and explore using LEGO products to learn subjects such as maths, English, science, technology and engineering, using bricks to create letters, designing mazes for innovation problem-solving, using the Math Train Set for learning mathematical concepts, and constructing robot models to learn about gears and gear ratios along with the concept of designing and building for a specific purpose. Rising School Library also has a free play and design challenge centre, which contains LEGO sets for use by students in grades 4 and 5, to extend self-learning opportunities.

And if it all sounds a little too good to be true – “Hang on, so I get to play with LEGO all day? Result!” we can just hear the kids say – Rising School is already seeing tangible results, building creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication and community. “LEGO bricks, sets and technology solutions allow 21st Century learning to be playful, fun and invisible,” says Bartlett. “Students see the activities as play, while our classroom teachers see learning and confidence being developed.”
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