Mixing Lego with Design Thinking to help children build user-centred spaces

Notes on Design Club at Lab Live: Metropolis, and thinking about a new way to play (and learn) with Lego

Design Club recently ran a workshop at a Lab Live event with the Institute of Imagination. Metropolis was the theme.

To prepare, we created and tested a new project at our after school club. Notes here: Design a tomato greenhouse that helps me to grow tomatoes.

How did it go for Design Club?

We had loads of fun. There were so many wonderful things to do, encouraging children to explore their imagination.

We had a little table, next to the lovely Peeka (a smart camera for kids). Project worksheets were set up around two big boxes of Lego. Children used the worksheets to plan and design a space, and then they used Lego to prototype their designs.

When a child sat down, they were introduced to the project, and talked through the worksheets. The induction was important. We wanted to encourage children to think about what kind of space they wanted to build, who it was for, and what they wanted to help the user to do.

What did the children create?

The children created all sorts of spaces, from sheds to boats. Our favourite: Design a bedroom that helps Jules to get to his robot suit.

We were so impressed, but not surprised, by the empathetic capacities of children. Through Design Thinking, children found it easy to think about the needs of another and dream up ideas for them.

The whole experience got me thinking about the purpose of Lego, different ways to play with Lego, and how it can be used in design education.

A new way to play with Lego

There are typically two ways to play with Lego:

  1. Use instructions
  2. Use imagination

Using instructions is fine. It’s satisfying having all the pieces you need, following step-by-step instructions, and building towards the final model, making it look like the model on the box.

Using imagination is wonderful. I guess it’s what the Master Builder’s do in the Lego Movie!

We’re wondering if there is another way to play (and learn) with Lego? Could we combine themed Lego pieces with Design Thinking tools to guide the creative process, enable the making of user-centred inventions, and nurture empathy and problem-solving?

Lego is already doing some amazing things around this space. See the UK Lego Education site, and @legoeducationuk and @lego_education on Twitter. Cool stuff is happening, but activities still feel instructional, and skew towards science, computers, and coding education. Not design.

Based on our workshop at Lab Live, I think there are plenty of opportunities to mix Lego with Design Thinking. The children loved it, and their creations were brilliant.

Something to explore.

Thank you to…