Creativity, Inspiration, Kindness, Organization

Start With Kindness…And Then LEGOs

We just had our first elementary school faculty meeting to kick off the new school year. We did the usual housekeeping, updates, and messages but that came second. To begin, we started with a message rooted in kindness.

We were reminded by our Head of Primary, Marina Gijzen, that first and foremost:

  • You are an advocate for students.
  • People are the first priority.
  • Assume the best in everyone.
  • Be willing to generously dole out grace and be gracious.
  • Take care of each other and yourself
  • Be willing to ask for and accept help

Finally, we were reminded to Be KIND. To “throw kindness around like confetti.” And we were challenged to remember that we will never regret choosing kindness.

Our job is to treat our students with love, with hope, with empathy and compassion, to challenge them, and to inspire and be inspired by them.

This message this morning was powerful. It could have started with a joke or a cartoon or a game about holidays but instead it started with a genuine message of kindness. It was authentic – I have been on the receiving end of so much kindness here already – and it really set the tone for what I hope will be an amazing year ahead. I am grateful.

As I begin preparing for the year ahead and for our students to arrive on Thursday, I want to ensure they leave their first class with me with that same feeling I had when I left the faculty meeting: that they are an important part of something special. To that end, I have designed the following Lego Challenge for all my students. I know they are going to want to touch and look and explore on day one (two students have just walked in while I am writing this and they are touching EVERYTHING) but I don’t want the first class to be about everything they can’t do. I also want to get across the ideas of iteration, collaboration, and communication.  Here is the challenge:

Photo by Philippe_Charpentier on Flickr
  1. Take legos from the tables and build something that represents you. It could be a model of something or something abstract. It could be in your favorite color or many colors. It is a symbol of you.
  2. Put finished models on the table. Gallery walk and talk. What do you see? What do you think?  What are you wondering?
  3. Partner up with another student. Using ONLY the lego pieces from your two models, create a new model that represents the two of you.
  4. Put finished models on the table. Gallery walk and talk. What do you see? What do you think?  What are you wondering?
  5. Repeat in groups of 4, 8, 16 until we have one model that represents us as a group. All of the models from all of the classes will be on display in the Pit Window as they are created.


My friend and former colleague tried this out with her new leadership team. She tweaked the idea to suit the leadership scenario but reported back that by all accounts it was really successful. She didn’t do as many iterations as I will have to do (although we have small classes of around 16 so it shouldn’t be too bad). If you have done this kind of challenge before and can offer any suggestions, I would love to hear them! If you would like to do this challenge with your kids, please do! I would love to see your creations. Stay tuned for pictures of our models!


How are you starting the new school year?



10 thoughts on “Start With Kindness…And Then LEGOs”

  1. I often do something similar in terms of having students share something about themselves visually. However, this really blows me away with all the iterations. I LOVE IT. I think the concept of taking something that represents ourselves and slowly collaborating to mold it into a community piece that represents all is great.

    Will you participate with your classes?

  2. Great idea Sonya! Love it. I’ve done lots of collaborative tower-building kind of stuff in the first week, and the iteration idea has always come in with students wanting to repeat the challenge later in the year, but the high-speed iteration you’re suggesting is interesting. I’d be somewhat concerned about timeframes. How much time do you imagine you’ll give each stage? Also, how much structure to give the see/think/wonder is interesting. Sticky notes? Oral? And I wonder about how much management to give to pairings etc. My impulse would be to let it happen organically, but I can see benefits of doing pairings in a more purposefully random way too. Curious to see how it goes!

    1. You are awesome. I have 65 minutes but yes, time is always my nemesis! I imagine that Lily and I will be making notes and listening a lot. I am wondering if after the first model, I just prompt with “How might we create a model that represents how students in 4A work in pairs?” And then see what evolves from there?

      1. Good thought, more negotiable destination. I can see how this would help you inspire some beginning discussion on the roles of communication and collaboration, but I’m not sure about iteration, because of the way it involves moving the goal posts each round. I guess it could depend on how you frame the purpose. Another interesting exploration of iteration is the marshmallow challenge and accompanying Ted talk. I like how you think Sonya!

  3. I will try it with my new 1.Grade class. I am wondering seeing may iterations are feasible with 5-6 year old kids?I love the idea to create “one model that represents us as a group”. This could help to bond faster and create a loving class/learning environment. Thanks so much for sharing:)

    1. I have the grade one’s for only 45 minutes. We may spend more time on our own models and then go pairs, whole. I start this week so I will let you know how it goes! x

    2. Maybe try using a different material. Something like wooden blocks could be easier for a larger group to work with collaboratively, but could also be used for individuals and pairs if you can collect enough to work with.

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