The Laboratory Schools LEGO-LOGO Project

Project Description

(From Summer Work Writeup)

What is LEGO-LOGO?

To describe LEGO-LOGO, we can do no better than to quote a paper co- authored by one of Logo's original developers, Seymour Papert, and others of MIT's media lab [1]

LEGO/Logo is a computer-based system that offers a new approach to elementary science education. LEGO/Logo places engineering and design activities at the center of the science curriculum. Using the system, students build machines out of LEGO building pieces (including gears, motors and sensors), connect the machines to a computer, then write computer programs to control the machines. These activities can provide a more meaningful and motivating context for learning traditional science-curriculum concepts while also introducing elementary school students to important engineering and design concepts that are rarely addressed in today's curricula.

The LEGO/Logo system and the activities that surround it are based on an educational philosophy that we call constructionism. [2] This philosophy takes as one of its central tenets the idea that students learn best when they are creating something that they believe in and care about. Like most hands-on approaches to science, the constructionist approach aims to make abstract ideas concrete. But constructionism goes beyond traditional hands-on science. In many hands-on lessons students re-create someone else's experiment. Students are told what to measure and in many cases what the answer should be. Even in more open-ended experiments students rarely have any deep sense of involvement or interest in the activity.

LEGO/Logo projects have a very different flavor. LEGO/Logo links science to a world that students are already familiar with and care about. Students want to build and control LEGO machines. LEGO/Logo projects feel like real projects, not experiments cooked up for classroom consumption. Moreover, important scientific concepts are close to the surface in LEGO/Logo activities. Thus LEGO/Logo projects can act as a motivating context for learning about certain scientific principles…and for learning about the scientific process itself.

It is this latter point that the Lab Schools' LEGO-LOGO project emphasizes in the elementary grades: learning to apply critical thinking and the scientific process to all areas of the curriculum, not only science. The scientific process of designing and building, predicting, testing, altering the design, retesting, and then furthering the design by making improvements and modifications is inherent in all LEGO activities.

Why not LEGO alone? Where does the Logo fit in? Papert et. al. explain that LEGO/Logo involves two types of building: building LEGO structures and building Logo programs.

The LEGO/Logo environment is particularly powerful in that it combines design activities in both the LEGO domain and the Logo domain. Logo itself provides a good environment for learning about design ideas like modularity and abstraction. [3] With LEGO/Logo students can experiment with the same ideas in two domains. Thus they are more likely to recognize that there are in fact deeper general principles involved.

The Lab Schools' approach to LEGO-LOGO is on the cutting edge in bringing the activities to the elementary grades. It is somewhat unusual, and we feel that this is where the project's strength lies, in that LEGO-LOGO is incorporated into the classroom curriculum rather than presented in a special area class. It is hoped that the analytical thinking skills learned will be perceived by the students as useful in all areas, not only in the science lab or computer classroom.


[1] Ocko, Stephen, Papert, Seymour, Resnick, Mitchel, and Silverman, Brian. LEGO® TC logo, A Learning Environment For Design. Excerpted from a research report prepared at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

[2] Papert, S. (1986). Constructionism: A New Opportunity for Elementary Science Education. A Proposal to the National Science Foundation.

[3] Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms. Basic Books. New York.


Year One

This chart is fairly detailed because five classrooms shared a limited amount of materials, which made timing crucial to availability.

Sept-Oct Exploration with free sets of LEGOS using beginning LEGO activity cards Begin six week introduction using units specifically designed for GEARS, LEVERS, and PULLEYS
Nov-Feb Introduction using units specifically designed for GEARS, LEVERS, and PULLEYS Begin Technic I activity sequence. Incorporate fourth grade partners as co- builders and as programmers of second grade projects. Students will begin to use self-assessments to record ongoing project construction, problems encountered, testing procedures, concepts learned
Feb-May Begin Technic I activity sequence Begin Technic II activity sequence
May-June Teachers will evaluate use of LEGOS at each grade level to see if supplemental materials or more individual LEGO sets per classroom may be needed Teachers will evaluate use of LEGOS at each grade level to see if supplemental materials or more individual LEGO sets per classroom may be needed

Year Two

With the availability of additional materials, teachers gained more freedom of usage. As students who have had an opportunity to work with LEGO-LOGO in the lower grades move up through the school, this schedule will of necessity change to reflect this increased experience.

K & N/K Toolo Kinder Logo
1 Duplo & Gears/Levers/Pulleys Kinder Logo
2 Technic I & Pneumatics Kinder Logo & LogoWriter
3 Technic II & introduction to Robotics LogoWriter (class & computer curriculum?)
4 Technic II & introduction to Robotics LogoWriter/ MicroWorlds (class & computer curriculum?)
5 1 section: Technic II
2 sections: Robotics
6 Science: Control Lab Robotics Robotics Logo


Nursery and Kindergarten

The Nursery and Kindergarten teachers agreed that KinderLogo was a program that would be used on the Apple IIe computers in classrooms. LEGO Dacta's equipment for younger children, DUPLO and TOOLO (newly introduced last year), are age-appropriate and TOOLO was chosen for use in classrooms.

First Grade

DUPLOS are easy to manipulate and have distinctive shapes and colors. DUPLOS are used to introduce spatial skills; duplicating models from pictures and spoken description, as well as extending these skills to other problem solving activities. Math building cards will introduce activities and give exposure to basic terminology. The idea box cards will be useful curriculum extenders for specific themes. As the children become adept with initial activities, some explorations are transferred to basic LEGO blocks and specialized kits of levers, pulleys and gears. The children's work is documented using photographs, recording descriptions, and having children draw and write about their work. Correspondence of some activities to first grade math assessment is helpful.

The larger size of the DUPLO pieces will ensure success for all students beginning earlier in the school year. The math, science, and problem solving cards add a wealth of new ideas for building and posing problems to be solved. They also suggest a multitude of connections with favorite children's books and social studies topics. Writing is inspired in describing the process of building as well as the finished product. The materials also add depth to the choice of creative materials available during free choice activities.

A natural follow-up is transferring the skills developed with the larger DUPLO materials to activities with standard LEGO materials. Spatial awareness, problem solving, and cooperative work skills will be developed further at this stage. This will naturally flow into the use of the more advanced Levers, Pulleys, and Gears building materials which involve many small pieces and more technical ideas and terminology. Building from the cards provided with the sets introduces students to basic concepts. Follow-up activities can then involve the creation of new "simple machines" based on the basic introductory models. The addition of materials at this advanced level allows more experimentation by a larger number of students during the year. Materials continue to be shared materials, but advanced materials will be more readily available later in the year when students in all first grade classes are developmentally ready to utilize them.

The insights gained in the first year and the additional materials obtained for the second year expanded curricular goals at both the beginning/foundation level and the expansion/enrichment level.

Second Grade

The "constructivist" theories of Jean Piaget assert that knowledge is not simply transmitted from teacher to student, but actively constructed by the mind of the learner. Children don't get ideas; they make them. Our use of LEGO and Logo supports this theory as our learners are particularly likely to make new ideas when they are actively engaged in making some type of external, personally meaningful artifact.

Gears, Levers, and Pulleys kits were shared, using one simple machine kit at a time. These kits are small and provide a comfortable beginning for new second graders. The students were effectively introduced to simple machines and their purposes. Each pair of students had ample opportunities to apply the concepts, building from the kits' building cards. In December, LEGO's Technic I building kits were opened. Many of the models and concepts we had become familiar with in the Gears, Levers, and Pulleys kits were repeated with the use of Technic I. Each teacher changed strategies a bit to make maximum use of LEGOs and students' interest levels. An inventive component to Technic I was added. In January, more access to different LEGO kits became available. Students were programming using Logo software in the classroom and later in the computer lab.

The learning that took place during all of these projects was enhanced by thoughtful discussion as students watched and listened to one another make observations and changes. Writing often explained the step-by-step processes each pair of children experienced. Other times writing described the model itself as a way to record the fruits of their labors.

Plans for LEGO's second year have been made considering the cross- grade level plans for LEGOs and Logo. First grade will begin with Duplos and move into Gears, Levers, and Pulleys. Second grade will begin with the Technic I building kit and use it for exploration, application, and inventive purposes, incorporating the building and problem-solving into our curriculum. Second grade will also use the LEGO Pneumatic Set in which compressed air causes movement. Scientific concepts are effectively introduced so that students will search for understanding such things as friction, strength, movement, and energy. The goal is to create a parallel integration of all subject areas: literature, math, social studies, science, music, art, and dance. Using Logo as a programming language, the focus is on the thinking processes that Logo encourages as it is integrated into other disciplines. This will pave the way for students to move into third grade where they will work with a more elaborate Technic II Set and program movement in their models with Logo software.

Third Grade

The LEGO and Logo materials are used extensively and regularly throughout the school year. Students work in two-person teams on most projects, but Logo projects on the computer may occasionally be undertaken individually. A wide variety of in-class projects occurs, including some of which are done in conjunction with the science and computer teachers.

The Fall term was largely devoted to familiarizing students with Logo as a programming language, establishing routines for using the LEGO materials (working with partners, learning the names of the parts, clean-up, inventory, and storage procedures, following directions, etc.), and undertaking the construction of several simple LEGO models.

In the Winter term students began combining the LEGO materials in more elaborate and individualized ways. A social studies unit on Inventors and Inventions allowed students to use LEGO materials to build an invention of their own design.

The Spring term will focus on individualized student projects using Logo and LEGO together. These projects will help students learn how to use the computer in conjunction with the Technic II and Robotic LEGO materials.

Fourth Grade

Fourth graders began instruction with LEGOs using Technic II. Students experimented with basic concepts of science, mathematics (ratios, multiples, logic), design, and engineering using the hands-on materials of LEGO and Logo. The LEGO component begins with simple tasks involving gears and pulleys. Students are given set tasks and a limited selection of materials with which to work in exploring a problem while becoming familiar with the function and names of various pieces. Creative solutions are encouraged, and at the conclusion of a project strategies, obstacles, and solutions discussed, both through whole class discussions and journal writing. Next, students are introduced to the Logo software offered and given the opportunity to use their programming knowledge to solve problems. This occurs on a very limited basis until computers are available in the classroom for large groups of students. Integrating this into our curriculum will provide students with the opportunity for developing their abilities to think creatively, to make predictions, and to problem solve cooperatively.

Fifth Grade

Technic II materials and Control System software are used in activities that supplement and enhance our current curriculum in the following areas:

  1. Problem solving, logical thinking, following and giving instructions. Both LEGOs and LEGOs with Logo provide opportunities for students to analyze situations, formulate solutions, and proceed in a step-by-step way to the desired conclusion.

  2. Mathematics. LEGO materials lend themselves to demonstration and exploration of a number of mathematical concepts and phenomena, such as ratio, proportion, measurement, geometric figures. Teaching math through application to physical reality is effective in fifth grade.
  3. Writing. The LEGO activities are appropriate for a number of significant writing assignments, in particular having to do with describing procedures, comparing plans with results, evaluating outcomes, etc. There may also be opportunities for more imaginative efforts, using the LEGO and Logo activities as starting points.
  4. Open-ended exploration. By using the materials for activities beyond the prepared building plans, students' imaginations take off.
In addition, the activities promote cooperative group efforts that are emphasized in our curriculum.

Sixth Grade

LEGO Control Lab offers many opportunities to dovetail with or expand upon the existing sixth grade curriculum. The lab activities reinforce skills and processes emphasized in the sixth grade courses such as graphing, measurement, data manipulation and interpretation, experimenting and problem solving. Throughout the Lower and Middle School science curriculum, science concepts such as work, power or energy (associated with distance and force) are not formally addressed. The LEGO materials provide the opportunity to introduce these concepts in an exciting way.

Though the materials work well as a part of the science curriculum, there were not sufficient funds to purchase a class set. Three sets are adequate for 6 to 12 students. However, there are several ways for introducing some students to the materials and experiments.

  1. As a part of a sixth grade club. The sixth grade has one additional advisory period per week. One suggestion for its use is to make it a club/special interest period. "LEGO Club" could be a part of this.
  2. As a part of an advisory. Since the size of advisories has been decreased significantly this year (about 10), it could be that LEGOs would be limited to one advisory group. During a beginning year of LEGO-LOGO, it is appealing to think about a limited experience with students who are seen more often than other students.
  3. As an adjunct to the science curriculum. The materials could possibly become an "extra" in science along with many other extras that are offered throughout the year. As an extra, it might take place within the science period over a long time or be done after school in a more concentrated time frame.
  4. As a supplement to Core class projects. Students can use the materials to design moveable components for their Core projects.

High School

During a group discussion a thoughtful response was provided to the question, "Why teach students Logo, or any programming language?"

Computer Department

The development of a LEGO-LOGO curriculum at the Laboratory Schools provides a natural opportunity to integrate computer use with classroom activities.

As the program grows, there are a number of computer-related issues that need to be addressed in this year and beyond:


Using the LEGO and Logo materials described above, curriculum integration becomes a priority as students make connections!



Social Studies





Philosophy (or language modification)


Foreign Language

The Arts (Art, Dance, Drama, Movement, and Music)


From the summer work, several ideas emerged to encourage communication between different classes using LEGO-Logo, to help teachers share ideas, and to help communicate the results of the LEGO-Logo project to the school and parent communities.

Return to The Laboratory Schools Lego/LOGO Project