Research: What I learned from LEGO League

For the past five weeks, I’ve been coaching my son’s Jr. FIRST LEGO League. At this level, students learn teamwork, research skills and how to use LEGOs as tools rather than toys. Our team is learning about cars from the 1950s. The boys (yes, they are all boys) must research how cars have changed from then to now before building a model. Last week we talked about where they might find information.

As a teacher and a nonfiction writer, I was reminded of how many places we can look for information. Here are some sources our came up with:

  • “We can Google it!” This was the first response I received. The internet offers so many sources, some credible and others not. I tend to prefer online databases I can access through the library or my university. GoogleScholar also provides access to scholarly publications.
  • Print materials. Cooper and I went this route, taking a trip to the library. While there, we talked about using the card catalog to look up books, or asking a librarian. He opted to go straight for the shelves, since he knows where the juvenile transportation books are shelved.
  • Interviews. Our group interviewed a senior citizen (my mom) about what cars were like when she was a child. Interviews are an often overlooked source of information for students and writers.
  • First-hand exploration. On the way home from the library, we passed a classic car show. I’m sad to say we didn’t have time to stop, since first-hand experience is a wonderful sources of research.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, I’d love to hear how you learn about your subjects.

Also, I’m not the only one writing about research this week. Check out the Teaching Authors blog for resources for writers of fiction and nonfiction.

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6 Replies to “Research: What I learned from LEGO League”

  1. Great post, and great way to get kids actually excited about doing research. I tend to google a lot these days, but I try to choose sites that seem reliable, and I also do library hunts.

  2. What a great experience for “your boys.” As for non-fiction research material, they could also check out car magazines from the 1950s. Not necessarily related to cars, but for non-fiction research… journals and personal letters are a wonderful resource. I still have a bundle of letters in my closet from my childhood correspondents. It’s sad that since the dawn of email, I haven’t “kept” letters like I used to.

    1. We are doing Jr. FLL for the little guys (Kinder through 3rd). It’s a fun introduction. Sometime I’d love to hear about FLL since we’ll be starting a team next year for 4th through 8th. It seems a bit more intense.

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