Legos are a must-have for your science classroom! The plastic building blocks are perfect for modeling or building all sorts of constructs, from sundials to cars to landscapes.
So when it comes to teaching about urban sustainability, Legos are one of my go-to teaching tools, even for high school and AP classes. Why? Because they are perfect for designing city layouts.
Below, I’ve listed three Lego activities for your Environmental Science class that take a hands-on approach to learning about urban sustainability. These activities can be done as a class, or you can split up your classroom into teams for a good team building challenge.
Three Lego activities for modeling sustainable cities
1. Maximizing Space in Urban Settings
For this activity, first provide your students with a large flat Lego grid to build on. I find a 32×32 grid to be a good size, but the exact size does not matter. Your students can then design a city on the grid, using Lego blocks for houses, businesses, and other buildings. To make designing the city simpler, you can designate a certain Lego block size for each type of building. For example, a 1×2 piece may represent a house, while a 2×2 block may represent a business. For a complete key detailing what each type of block stands for, go to my Environmental Science lesson plans.
Once your students have a grid and a variety of blocks to work with, they can begin designing their city. The goal is to design a city that maximizes open space, although you can further divide this into two categories:
A) Maximizing personal space
B) Maximizing public space
2. Designing a Sustainable City
Next, you can start pushing your students to think about designs for a sustainable city. You can begin by giving your students certain goals, such as maximizing green spaces, minimizing transportation time through the city, or incorporating urban agriculture into their design. You can also use an infographic, like the one below from the European Environment Agency, to demonstrate various factors that impact urban sustainability.
After listing a few factors and goals, you can ask your students to add their own ideas to the list. Once they have a good understanding of urban sustainability, they can begin designing their own city layouts.
3. Model Modern Cities
Now that your students have spent some time designing their own sustainable cities, you can take this Lego activity a step further and take a look at modern cities that have started moving towards higher urban sustainability. I have a list of cities to start with in my Environmental Science lesson plans, or you can research your own list of sustainable cities.
For this Lego activity you will definitely want to split your classroom into groups, so you can assign each group a different city to model.
Where to buy Legos for your classroom
Although you can buy Legos just about anywhere, LEGO® also offers educational sets specifically intended for classroom use.
If you want to take Lego activities even further, check out the LEGO® Learning System! LEGO® offers lots of products and resources for incorporating more hands-on learning into your STEM classes.
The LEGO® Learning System is a series of solutions that work seamlessly together to deliver engaging, hands-on STEAM learning experiences for students of all ages. It combines standards-aligned curriculum units, stackable LEGO bricks, a simple coding progression, intelligent hardware, and professional development, creating limitless possibilities for playful STEAM learning.– LEGO®
Do you want more hands-on STEM activities?
If you enjoyed these Lego activities, click here to download the full lesson plan!
For more free resources, go to our list of websites with free PBL activities and ideas that you can adapt for your STEM classroom.
Lastly, don’t miss all of our other free lesson plans and curriculum, including AP Biology, Experimental Biology, and detailed case studies 🙂