From time to time I like to pull out a manual from one of our long dismantled, and well scattered Lego sets, and send the children on a scavenger hunt through their toy box for the pieces to put the set back together. This weekend, I upped the difficulty of the challenge, by printing instructions from the Lego website, for a set we don't own, asking the children to try, and create the model (in this case model 6615 - the Lego Eagle Stunt Flyer pictured above in red, with photo credit to lego.wikia.com) from the Lego blocks we already have.
At first, the children declared the task impossible. We don't own an airplane set. We would never have the right pieces. Surely, I wasn't suggesting taking apart any of their precious creations to build something new (get these kids some Kragle already)?
Undaunted, I started building myself, with the few scrap pieces they were willing to let me use. It wasn't long before I was joined by a newly formed team of master builders searching for pieces, offering advice, and ready with criticisms for each new substitution we had to make.
"Our" plane didn't turn out exactly like the picture, but the children were pretty impressed with what came out of their scrap blocks.
The thinking involved in the process was very much the "this is what I have - that is what I need - so how do I get from what I have to what I need?" kind of thinking used in high school geometry. But, don't tell the children that. They're already scanning through the Lego website for the next impossible model to build.