Last year I began to hear discussions about the adoption of the NGSS and saw a lot of chatter about using Legos to help teach young students about Engineering principles. I saw the anxiety on the faces of some of my teachers as they tried to digest these new standards and new concepts, and thought, in addition to locating appropriate texts to support their lessons, it might be a good idea to be able to provide some Legos for checkout. I knew it would crush my budget to buy Legos, so I put a request out on Facebook to see if anyone had any Legos they wanted to offload, and within about 10 minutes I had a MAJOR Lego donation.
I spent most of the remaining year trying to steal minutes and recruit kids to help me sort the Legos, but by the middle of the October this year, I realized it was just not going to happen, and that I needed to create some awareness that we had them available to use. After a lot of thought and some Internet searching, I could see where something like a Lego table would be a great way to generate collaboration amongst students and create some excitement and awareness around this donated resource. Of course, a "real" Lego table would be another budget crusher, so I knew it was time to get creative, and checkout Pinterest.
Originally I had intended to go to a Goodwill and buy a coffee table to use in my conversion, but I had so much luck with the Lego donation, that I put another request out on Facebook to see if anyone had a coffee table they wanted to unload. And just my luck, I had an offer of a chest style coffee table from one of my library volunteers - all I had to do was get a truck to move it!
I picked the coffee table up around Thanksgiving and used Thanksgiving break to convert it to our library Lego table. The table is AWESOME, and after looking at it, I knew I was going to be able to use it ways that I had previously not imagined. I love providing students with space to write and plan, and with a little chalkboard paint, I knew this table had just the space I needed to give students building and planning space.
- Chest style coffee table
- Valspar Chalkboard paint
- Drop cloth
- Sponge style paint brushes
- Paint sticks
- Paint trays
- Strong, multi-surface adhesive like Gorilla Glue
- Lego base plates - I used a generic brand I found through Amazon -just be sure you read the reviews to make sure they are actually compatible with the Lego brand.
- Cover your floor with a drop cloth and get all your materials ready.
- I first sanded out the rough spots on the table and wiped everything clean to make sure I got good coverage
- I primed the entire surface of the table using a basic white primer. Some people suggest using a tinted primer, and this may have helped with coverage of the chalkboard paint.
- I then applied three layers of chalkboard paint to all but the area where the Legos would go. I was afraid the adhesive wouldn't stick to the chalkboard paint.
- I wait at least 24 hours for the paint to set.
- I then glued the base plates on using a strong adhesive. I stacked encyclopedias on top of the base plates to help them adhere better during the drying phase.
- I waited three days before using the table - just to be super conservative:)
Our first collaborative project was to use it to build the setting of Because of Winn Dixie, which we just finished as our first 1 book, 1 school project. The kids were able to leave notes for each other on the sides of the table and label things they were working on.
For the most part it worked out really well. I reminded students that their job was to "Create Only" they weren't allowed to destroy anything another student had made although they were allowed to build onto something someone else did. I also explained that whatever we built was "Ours". It didn't belong to one person, but we all had a responsibility to respect it. They really understood that and showed a lot of cooperation and respect. The overall impact was awesome.
I'm hoping to use this more for things like:
- Habitat creation/research
- Stop action movies
- Engineering challenges
- Genius hour research projects
- Teacher generated projects for NGSS
Do you have a Lego table in your library or classroom? What do you use it for? I would love to hear about it:)