By Ali Schilpp, Garrett County Public School
LEGO Travel Buddy is a global collaboration project that started in 2017. I felt that my students needed authentic connections with peers and educators abroad and that is what gave me the incentive to seek out collaborations. It’s so important to learn from other educators and grow your PLN. Working in a small rural district, it is crucial to connect, seek funding and resources to enhance student access. I love to see how digital access can provide my students with exposure to new cultures, people and places. It's the same concept of sharing an object and visually seeing it in another location. It is our take on "Flat Stanley". Global collaborations provide windows (opportunities to observe diverse people and their cultures and develop empathy) and doors (incentive to move beyond one location and seek opportunities, connections and adventures abroad).
Where do I get a LEGO Travel Buddy?
I received my first official LEGO Travel Buddy kit free with a purchase from LEGO.COM shop and took it with me to ISTE in San Antonio and documented the experience to share with my colleagues. The mini-figure in this set has a very distinct space shirt and comes with numerous travel accessories like a camera, suitcase, fishing pole etc. You can still purchase the set on Amazon or BrickLink. Some of the first LEGO mini-figures that we have shared were custom made to look like the participant. I recommend purchasing LEGO Education Community Mini-figures sets if you want to custom make multiple travel buddies! The mini-figures are inexpensive to mail and everyone loves LEGO! We have collaborated with students of all ages, PreK-12 and adults! Also, LEGO is a great representation of our school library where we host FIRST LEGO League projects and teams! Every LTB is unique and they all showcase their adventures in different ways! Adventures range from riding an ATV through the Atlas Mountains of Marrakesh to visiting the ALA International Conference in Dubai to touring the Harry Potter studios in London! Students from abroad who have received a LEGO Travel Buddy have shared information such as “What in the WORLD are you Reading” about their favorite books and where they live!
Need inspiration or just want to follow LEGO Travel Buddy?
Please view the links for sample projects, visit our Going Global MAP and share with your students. Connecting with LEGO Travel Buddy has been a life-changing experience. I highly recommend adding it to your educator/librarian bucket list! Last year, we sent a LEGO Travel Buddy to several different places and made our first connections thanks to the librarians and teachers in Hawaii, London, Australia, China, New Hampshire and Pocomoke Middle in Maryland! We also sent and received postcards from both Sarah Betteridge (Perth, Australia) and Lucas Maxwell (London, England) via AIR MAIL. The postcards are so personal and are displayed proudly in our school library. In an effort to save time and money, we found using digital tools has allowed us to increase our connections instantly and for free! We received beautiful digital postcards from Sarah Betteridge and her students in Australia on a Padlet called “Where in the WORLD do we live?” My students created and shared their own about Garrett County, Maryland using Google Slides! In order to book talk or share information about our locations, our students collaborate on Flipgrid and they post pictures on Twitter.
Current global connections include:
Students have even shared clues using the 5 themes of Geography on a mystery Flipgrid with students in South Carolina! This week, another Mystery Flipgrid location is in the works! I am not allowed to reveal the location but it is a very special librarian that everyone loves to connect with! We are also excited to see what adventures the following librarians will share with us who have recently received an LTB:
Digital and Global Citizens
This is how we become better Global and Digital Citizens, with authentic connections. It introduces my students to new faces and places! We are often surprised that even when our global friends are 4,000 miles away, we are reading the same books! It also inspires us to learn more about our world that we will hopefully have the opportunity to travel. Connecting on Flipgrid and Twitter gives my students exposure to the world beyond the walls of our small community school.
Is there a LEGO Buddy in your future?
After we sent and connected with our friends, we let them decide what to do next. Many of the LEGO Travel Buddies continued to explore. For example, our Hawaiian LTB "Hoa Hele" has traveled over 40,000 miles and is planning an African Safari next! Some passed it on to another teacher or librarian, also a wonderful option. Here at NMS, we are always seeking out new friends and adventures and would love to connect with you. Let us know if you would like to share your own LTB adventure with us by using the #LEGOTravelBuddy hashtag. Our school system allows access to twitter, so this is a great way for us to connect in school where we all have Internet access!
Ali Schilpp is a media specialist at Northern Middle in Garrett County. School Library Journal named her the 2018 School Librarian of the Year. Connect with Schilpp on Twitter at @AliSchilpp