A trending image a parent uploaded to Reddit

This image, recently submitted by a parent a few weeks ago, hit the top of of the Reddit feed. It reads:

"To parents

The urge to create is equally strong in all children. Boys and girls. It's imagination that counts. Not skill. You build whatever comes into your head, the way you want it. A bed or a truck. A dolls house or a spaceship. A lot of boys like dolls houses. They're more human than spaceships. A lot of girls prefer spaceships. They're more exciting than dolls houses. The most important thing is to put the right material in their hands and let them create whatever appeals to them." 

LEGO's message that was packed in whatever toy this parent purchased gives a nod to the learning theory of constructionism introduced by Seymour Papert of MIT. 

So what's constructionism, anyway? 

Seymour Papert

Seymour Papert

Constructionism is heavily influenced on constructivism – the learning theory that says learners actively construct their knowledge based on previous knowledge. Students learn best in project-based settings where they work toward goals that are meaningful to them as students. Constructionism differentiates itself from other theories in that it emphasizes that students learn best when they are making tangible products that they can show and share to the real world.

The connection between this learning theory and LEGO® run deep. Research that Seymour Papert conducted involved the use of legos and was funded by LEGO®. 

This hands-on play and learning is precisely what kids and grownups do when they play with LEGOs. Their finished product can be displayed for others, can be deconstructed and reconstructed into new shapes and new ideas.

LEGO® Serious Play

Neither constructionism theory nor Legos are exclusively valuable for young learners. Lego Serious Play employees constructionism learning theory in professional learning scenarios where business groups work together on scenarios using legos. From the Lego Serious Play website, it says: "The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology is an innovative process designed to enhance innovation and business performance. Based on research which shows that this kind of hands-on, minds-on learning produces a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the world and its possibilities, the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology deepens the reflection process and supports an effective dialogue – for everyone in the organization. The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology is an innovative, experimental process designed to enhance innovation and business performance."

LEGO® and constructionism

The close connection between LEGO® and constructionism is perhaps best illustrated in LEGO's mission statement: 

'Inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow’
Our ultimate purpose is to inspire and develop children to think creatively, reason systematically and release their potential to shape their own future - experiencing the endless human possibility.

Photo credit: "Lego City Folk" by Dan Goodwin is licensed under CC BY 2.0.