Monday, July 4, 2016

Legos, A Seemingly Innocent Construction Toy

It was not until my son entered kindergarten did I get a full hand account of how popular and fiercely coveted this construction toy was to small children.  In reading "Why We Banned Legos," I clearly saw visions of my son.  In this chapter, teachers of an after school program that catered to white, upper middle class families took advantage of an opportunity to ban Legos after a mishap that destroyed "Legotown," a community including coffee houses, clam shacks and airports built by children attending the program.  The teachers of the program seized this opportunity because they noticed that the students who were first involved in Legotown's creation quickly became exclusionary of others who wanted to participate when resources became scarce.  Additionally, Legotown had likely become representative of what the students' community were.  To that extent, Legotown was not inclusionary, collaborative or democratic and the teachers wanted to use this opportunity to change the values that Legotown had been built.

In an effort to introduce social justice and after much careful thought and discussion, the teachers agreed to remove the Legos from the classroom despite the potential for subsequent distress amongst the teachers and students alike.  Teachers did not simply come in and replace one form of power with their own, they spoke with students and challenged their ideals and in doing so, used this information to form the basis for subsequent conversations with the children and planning conversations around social justice and its components for the rest of the year.

Upon reintroduction of Legos into the classroom, teachers were pleased to see their efforts pay off when "several themes emerged: Collectivity is a good thing ...; Personal expression matters ...; Shared power is a valued goal ...; [and] We should strive for moderation and equal access to resources."  This framework paved the way for a new set of inclusive "rules" to be used as Legos took their place back in the classroom.

I find one of the last couple of sentences of this article to ring clearest to me, "Children absorb political, social, and economic world views from and early age.  Those world views show up in their play, which is the terrain that young children use to make meaning about their world and to test and solidify their understandings."  In other words, our actions speak louder than our words, be mindful of not only what we say in front of our children but how we treat others; they are listening.

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