Constructive learning: Elementary school students compete in annual Lego Builders competition


Forty elementary school students in Westfield wasted no time once the clock began during a competition that tested their ability to work collaboratively with a partner to build a house using Lego pieces. The Lego Forty elementary school students in Westfield wasted no time once the clock began during a competition that tested their ability to work collaboratively with a partner to build a house using Lego pieces.

The Lego Builders competition May 11 at Monon Trail Elementary School brought students from Carey Ridge, Maple Glen, Monon Trail and Oak Trace elementary schools who were tasked with building a house in 45 minutes. Five separate teams from each school participated in the competition, which paired students with a partner to build houses that were evaluated by a panel of judges on overall structure, interior, colors and landscaping.

This was the first year the event was held since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, said Karen Grogan, an instructional coach at Maple Glen Elementary School who also served as the Lego coach for Maple Glen students. This was the fourth year the Lego Builders competition has been held for students in Westfield Washington Schools.

“Each coach had to select a team and the interest was really high this year,” Grogan said. “Really, this is the best of the best right here.”

Students who were selected initially had to submit an application detailing their work ethic, what their interest levels were, in addition to submitting a drawing of what their Lego house would look like, according to Grogan. She said students had about six to eight practices leading up to the Lego Builders competition that allowed them to learn about architecture, including what is involved in planning a structure.

“The kids would build it that day and over all the practices,” Grogan said. “It was a gradual build where we would go into interior design, and they built a house over several practices learning those things and then they had a mock competition and broke it all down so they would be ready to build it in 45 minutes.”

The experience was also designed to be educational for students as Grogan said each school brought in experts within the field, such as architects, to speak about their industries.

“Lego building that they enjoy actually has a lot to do with every single career field in house homebuilding,” she said.

But for students such as Monon Trail fourth-grader Addilyn Syrus, who was paired with classmate Ivy Johnson, preparation was key coming into the competition. Syrus said building a house in advance during the weekly practices helped her and Johnson determine their overall strategy, including whether to add or remove pieces in certain areas.

Syrus also noted that communication also played an important role as students were not only evaluated on their final Lego house but had to answer questions from judges as well. Still, she said the 45-minute time frame meant there was some pressure to work quickly.

“We had to talk about who’s going to do what and what kind of details we need to add,” she said. “Honestly, it’s kind of helpful because I need to move quicker in order to get this done.”

Syrus said she was pleased with their overall design and offered tips for future participants.

“Even if you don’t know Legos, you can play around with it, and you know what houses look like, so you can build just off that,” she said.

Nick Wissing, associate principal at CSO Architects, was one of the judges. He was tasked with looking at different elements of overall design, in addition to how well students spoke about their final product based on a competition judging rubric.

Still, Wissing said the competition was important for students to prepare them for the future, especially as they worked in pairs.

“It’s huge in our industry and you don’t ever do anything, any project, by yourself,” Wissing said. “You’ve always got a team member there with you, whether it’s an architect, an engineer or landscape architect, so being able to work as a group, as a team and communicate your thoughts, but also take other people’s as well with constructive criticism (is important).”

Everett Harmon, a fourth-grader at Carey Ridge, said communication and speed were two important things he and teammate Lucas Estes, who is also in fourth grade, tried to focus on as they built their Lego house.

“To think and act quickly, it’s so much easier with two people,” Harmon said.

Estes also said the practices also helped his group think about “building rooms, thinking about what details we want to add to make that room come alive.”

“I felt a little bit under pressure, but I had a bunch of fun,” Estes said. “We added a bunch of details, so I think we did better than our previous build than we did in the practice.”

About the Lego Builders competition

The annual Lego Builders competition started in 2017 and was initially sponsored by the Builders Association of Greater Indianapolis to raise awareness for the related career fields to students.

The goals are to:

  • Learn about the fields of architecture, construction, landscape and interior design
  • Learn how all of the fields work together in the process of building a home
  • Foster creativity and design skills
  • Work collaboratively with a partner
  • Demonstrate effective communication skills when presenting to a judge with a partner

Source: Westfield Washington Schools