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Everything is Awesome: Supporting Ecology learning with Lego

Collection, analysis and critical interpretation of data and the limitations of available methods are key learning objectives of a stage 2 ecology module in which students consider the theory and practice of sampling plants, animals and the environment, to obtain information about populations and communities. Teaching in the spring term is designed to prepare students for a group research project during a residential field course abroad or in the UK later in the year.

Cluster analysis with Lego
A redesign of the module by Pen Holland and Thorunn Helgason halved the number of content lectures, and introduced workshops in which students tested sampling and analysis methods on a Lego community (a bag of Lego bricks with a predefined 'species' abundance distribution). Outputs of tasks related to the previous lecture were placed on padlets, with each group of students developing a story about their own community and its place within the wider 'landscape' as the term progressed.

Attendance at Lego workshops was higher than for traditional lectures and practicals, often 100% (compared to < 50% in lectures by the end of term). Since lecture materials were often downloaded in order to complete tasks, the Lego workshops appear to facilitate learning and engagement for the majority of students throughout the term, while the padlets provide an online resource for revision. Student feedback showed a significant leap in satisfaction from the previous year, with comments such as, "The workshops are...very fun, but extremely helpful in aiding understanding of the course content," "...the best module ever," and "Statistics no longer gives me nightmares."

Want to try it yourself? Use our virtual Lego sampler or make up a bag of your own bricks.

Read more about it in the Autumn 2016 Forum article (p 8-10).