Science/Math, Writing

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.

Homeschool, Science/Math

“Little Kid” LEGO Robotics

Fun times at LEGOLand

“Are you aware of this?”

That’s how my friend Brenda introduced me to the wonderful world of “little kid” LEGO robotics, officially called the Jr. FIRST LEGO League (FLL). While I wasn’t aware two months ago, I am now knee-deep in this new adventure, which introduces children ages 6 to 9 to teamwork, problem solving and simple machines.

Here’s how it works. Anyone can put together a team: a school, scout troop, YMCA, homeschool organization or neighborhood group. Teams have two to six members and meet once a week for six to eight weeks to work on the year’s challenge. This year’s challenge is called “Super Seniors.” Teams will work with a senior citizen partner to explore how one piece of technology has changed during the partner’s lifetime. The team builds a LEGO model of its finding using one moving part and a simple machine. Then they create a poster about their work.

If your child has any aspirations to join FIRST LEGO League, which promotes science, engineering and technology, Jr. FLL is a wonderful introduction. And it’s not too late to join this year’s challenge. Registration is now open for new teams, and the season runs through April. That gives teams plenty of time to complete their six weeks of work.

Are you interested in starting a team?