Tag Archives: makerspace

LEGO® Wall Mania

Makerspaces are becoming more prevalent in our educational settings these days. Kevin Mowat shared with me Diana Rendina‘s current definition of a makerspace:

A makerspace is a place where students can gather to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover using a variety of tools and materials.

A great definition to be sure. The scope of the “place” is the issue for me, as it is for my colleagues as well. Schools shouldn’t just have A makerspace… Schools should BE a makerspace!  It’s more about mindset of the teaching staff!

The reality may be quite different. Schools are creating “places” of smaller scope; more centralized spaces that contain both resources  (consumables & permanent/ loanable items) and personnel that can be “borrowed”  for periods of time. The space itself can also be booked. Teachers and classes are trying out equipment and pedagogies that are more innovative, inquiry-, design-focused and challenged-based as well. This doesn’t mean that a makerspace mindset isn’t in place, just that it may only be present locationally or situationally.

But this makes sense initially. One space centralizes the materials and personnel, lowers the initial outlay of expenditures, decreases the amount of potential reconstruction within the building, lowers the stress of teachers as they learn to approach a new mindset and new tools and so on.

However, it can also “fix” the mindset of the a location-based makerspace into that space in similar fashion to the computer lab. The learning takes place at that location exclusively or primarily.


So what does all this have to do with the topic at hand? How does this connect with mounted, vertical Lego walls? Good questions…

One of the big ticket items that is often requested is a vertical Lego wall. Here are some of the often cited reasons for having such a wall:

  • Lego provides tools that develop lateral thinking in a fun environment
  • It teaches kids to think in three dimensions
  • It improves literacy as kids work with instructions
  • It develops problem-solving, organization, and planning by construction
  • It improves creativity
  • It enhances communication and critical thinking
  • It boosts kids motor development.

There is no dispute with the positive impact that working with Lego can have whether that happens to be on a horizontal or vertical plane. So let’s move forward with that assumption intact.

The issue for me with this item is configuration… Vertical, horizontal or modular. In my mind, it should be an obvious choice, but apparently it’s not. In many cases, I hear about initial requests for vertical, wall-mounted LEGO walls.

As I began looking into what  options there were for these kind of installations, I took a quick trip over to Google to do some searches. I tried “LEGO – makerspace – Pinterest” (not even LEGO WALL mind you) and an amazing number of VERTICALLY oriented wall-mounted LEGO boards were returned in the search.

Google Search Results - LEGO Makerspace Pinterest
Google Search Results – LEGO Makerspace Pinterest

It’s no wonder people want them in their rooms mounted in this fashion. It seems to be the status quo. Might even make sense, at first blush! They take up less space, promote art-like, isometric creations similar to those in the Minecraft environment (a popular creation/game) and still maintain the advantages of LEGO mentioned above. We’ve even modelled this type of installation in our Innovation Office.

But this installation bothers me greatly and for the same reasons that  wall-mounted Smartboards and projectors do (I wrote a post about this months ago). To explain why, I need to go over two concepts:

Let’s go back to the definition for maker spaces kindly provided by Kevin Mowat earlier:

A makerspace is a place where students can gather to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover using a variety of tools and materials.

Simple. Students need the tools & materials to explore and discover concepts at their fingertips wherever that may be.

Let’s further add to that the notion of mobile learning:

Mobile learning  is education via networks (Internet as well) using personal/provided mobile technologies, such as tablets & smartphones to support their learning through mobile apps, social interactions and online educational hubs through which they can leverage information sources. It is flexible, allowing students access to education anywhere, anytime.

Simple as well. Anytime, anywhere learning.

What are the ramification of two such ideas? Mark Osborne discusses multiple ways in which a school’s and classroom’s environment impacts learning (up to 16%, as much impact as many teachers): lighting, sound, workflow, spacing, spaces for focused , collaborative and dynamic learning – all play a factor in the creating a place that “embraces the makespace” mindset. What is required is a flexible learning environment.

When a LEGO wall is mounted or a projector is mounted, that “fixes” that space as either the “LEGO place” or the “front of the room”. That can’t be changed easily.

Fixed spaces are not aligned with the notion of either a makerspace, or a mobile learning environment.


So what to do…

As far as the LEGO Board or WALL is concerned, happily there are many options. I will outline a few here and you can let your mind go with possibilities. But keep this in mind, for any creative, makerspace keep things flexible and modular.

The LEGO Shop sells the LEGO Base Plates in multiple sizes and colours, so once these two decisions have been made you can begin to determine the dimensions of the “wall” that will be created. With nine green, 32cm x 32cm board (10″ x 10″) base plates, a modular 9 piece, almost 3′ x 3′ board space could be created. This could service 9 individuals or 9 pairs of students with using the modular individual base plates or on the combined LEGO wall many students.

LEGO Green Base Plate
LEGO Green Base Plate

Mounting each base plate on it’s own wooden backing keeps the LEGO wall modular. This is important as classrooms are mobile learning environments and this modular configuration allows teachers to group their LEGO tinkering students in flexible groups or individuals depending on needs. It also allows for projects like “whole to part or part to whole art creation”; where each student is given part of a larger image to create/copy, only seeing the whole when all the pieces are combined.

Piece by Piece Art
Piece by Piece Art
Modular LEGO Base Plate Configurations
Modular LEGO Base Plate Configurations

The trick now is how to combine these modules in a secure enough manner that they can be lifted vertically. The image below makes a number of suggestions about how this might be accomplished. The most reliable is creating a box that fits the modular pieces snuggly. Pins could be used to secure the pieces as they are placed into the box. Then this box can be place on an old Smartboard stand or Flip chart stand.

But other ideas abound, as the diagram points  out.

Alternate LEGO "Wall" Configurations
Alternate LEGO “Wall” Configurations

What’s important to remember when considering anything for a mobile learning or makerspace environment is to consider being flexible. Flexible for the students, respectful of the fact that learning happens in unexpected locations and in unexpected ways, and cognizant that fixing things permanently to the walls of a classroom can sometimes “fix” the room in ways that yield unexpected results for the learners that the environments are being created to support.


Just found this article on ScoopIt! this morning. Thought it might provide some other options as well. Keep in mind the notions of mobile learning and flexible spaces though.

Moving Beyond Lego Walls:

Moving Beyond Lego Walls