Helping Things Click, Brick-by-Brick: America’s Great Shut-in is a Chance to Engage Students in Deeper Learning

My 10-year-old nephew, like most American kids, is “doing school” at home. An only child, he misses his friends, is not learning as much as he would in the classroom (by his own and his parents’ admission), and is often-times bored.

I ordered him a Lego Star Wars space fighter with a gazillion pieces to occupy him (and to give my sister some peace). He astounded me by putting it together in hours. During our “thank you−you’re welcome” video chat, the conversation drifted to the challenges of his confinement. He imaginatively listed places he plans to visit after the pandemic recedes. Tokyo was at the top, but every other place on his list was a far-flung historical site.

My first thought was, “good luck with that.”

My second thought was a lightbulb moment.

After a quick check−yes, Lego, makes kits for many monuments, buildings and city skylines−we made a deal. I would send him as many sets as he wanted, one at a time, in exchange for a written report on the edifice he’d just built. Reports would include history, architectural significance, milestone events, and so on. I warned him I would critique his English, including spelling and grammar, and would help him correct mistakes.

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