LEGO Serious Play Blog
LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Facilitation Training and Certification

Building betterfacilitators

Impactful Teaching Strategies for PSHE and Student Wellbeing

Building Belonging at School with LEGO and Purposeful Play


"The extent to which students feel that they are valued members of their community:

Last year I was invited to work with students, staff and parents/carers at the Bavarian International School in Munich. Over the course of two days, this whole-school community engaged in workshops focussed on an incredibly powerful - and incredibly relevant - question:

How can we be a school where EVERY student can flourish?

Bavarian International School
Bavarian International School lit up at night in pride colours

Why Belonging in Schools: What we can Learn from the Literature?

It is vital that students feel like they belong at school.

A perceived sense of belonging has a marked positive impact on a student’s wellbeing, levels of happiness and self esteem (Law et al., 2013). What’s more, research strongly indicates that ‘sense of belonging’ is an important variable linked to academic success (Allen, Kern, Vella-Brodick, & Waters, 2016). Not only are students who perceive themselves as valued members of their community less likely to display negative behaviours (Demanet & Van Houte, 2012), they are statistically more academically motivated and adopt a positive attitude towards learning (Roeser et al., 1996)

So - once again - it is vital that students feel like they belong at school.

The Bavarian International School acknowledged the significance of belonging for their students and took the decision to make building a culture of belonging a strategic priority. My brief was to kick start this work with the design and facilitation of a bespoke series of playful interventions to explore how they could make this culture of belonging a reality.

Our Approach: Using LEGO and Purposeful Play to Engage Students with Wellbeing

Student voice is an incredibly powerful agent for change in a school. Capturing it in a meaningful way though, can be challenging. Student surveys provide quantitative data - but often struggle to convey a rich supporting narrative. Interviews and focus groups can provide a more qualitative data set; though creating an environment where students feel comfortable enough to be completely candid can be tricky - particularly as the presence and intervention of teachers, parents or peers can unintentionally - or intentionally - distort this data (Lewis and Burman, 2008).

Play can be a fantastic mechanism for unleashing candour and gaining rich insight - even for the potentially thorniest of topics.

Working with La - the school’s Vice Principal - we designed a LEGO Serious Play workshop that challenged students to identify actions the school could take to foster this culture of belonging - starting with reflecting on the current Reality.

LEGO Serious Play: Supercharging Student Voice

Through LEGO bricks, students built models to show the school experiences that can make a student feel like they belong - or not:

Students 'building' their thoughts using LEGO Serious Play
Students 'building' their thoughts using LEGO Serious Play

This objectivity was intentional and vitally important. As we were inviting students to imagine a better future state, we needed to first provide them with the opportunity to acknowledge how things are right now - the current reality.

Having built their models - using the LEGO bricks as metaphors to communicate complex ideas - the students then shared their model-stories with their peers. It was during this story-sharing phase that we witnessed something brilliant happening…

Decoupling: The value of models in introducing Third Point Conversations

Third Point Conversations
Using LEGO models to decouple ideas from the sharer

Talking about - and to - a model vs. directly to another person has a fascinating influence on the nature of a conversation. The model serves as a conduit for discussion, with comments directed at ‘it’ rather than at other people. This has two positive effects linked to potentially difficult conversation.

Firstly, the person who built the model - in telling its story - can distance themselves personally and emotionally from the ideas they are sharing. In my experience, this provides a psychologically safer space for sharing and, ultimately, increasingly unfiltered outputs.

Another positive effect is that, when a peer asks questions in response - or indeed challenges the ideas being shared - they do this via the model and in doing so, reduce the personal nature of that interaction; they are critiquing the model and the ideas that it represents, not the individual who shared them.

At the Bavarian International School, students were incredibly honest in their articulation of things that could influence a student’s sense of belonging which provided us with a rich understanding of their perceived sense of the current reality.

Shared Building: Social Learning using LEGO Serious Play

Having built and shared their individual model stories, students were then challenged in groups to combine their best ideas in the form of a shared model; one that communicated their collective response to the question: ‘what are the key factors at school that can influence a students’ sense of belonging’.

The beauty of this activity was that it challenged students to think critically about what ideas should be represented by their shared model-story. This collective response was far richer and more considered than the sum of its original parts. The use of LEGO here as a construction material was significant. It allowed for rapid iteration of ideas, with students building and rebuilding as they evolved their thinking, made new connections and organised their thinking.

LEGO Serious Play Shared Model Example
An example of a student group's shared model of their 'current reality'

Once completed, the different table groups took turns to share their models, inviting their peers to be curious and ask questions about the stories that they told.

Finally, in response to these stories, the students were invited to use this same brick-building method to generate specific ideas for how the school could foster a culture of belonging; building on the experiences that positively contribute and considering how to mitigate the negative ones.

Student Ideas for building belonging
Student Ideas for building belonging

LEGO Serious Play for Belonging: Key Learnings from this Experience

These workshops were wildly successful at engaging students with the stated objective - and they did so in a way that was full of purpose and joy! Not only did we succeed in exploring in depth the current reality, we also kick-started the process of ideating for a possible ‘ideal future state’ - all within two hours!

Here are my three key takeaways from this experience:

  • Leveraging on the power of play using LEGO is a powerful way of engaging students with potentially challenging topics
  • Linked to this, EVERY student in those workshops shared their perspectives and told their story - before then collaborating to construct shared responses. It was truly democratic and equitable.
  • Physical manipulatives are an ideal mechanism for collaborative creativity - with students able to rapidly construct and then reconstruct models that represent their thinking in real-time
  • Stories make learning sticky - particularly where communication is enhanced through dual coding; a visual and auditory input

Want to Learn more about LEGO Serious Play in Schools?

The following resources and pathways might prove useful:


Allen, K., Kern, M. L., Vella-Brodrick, D., Hattie, J., & Waters, L. (2016). What schools need to know about fostering school belonging: A meta-analysis. Educational Psychology Review, 1–34. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648...

Demanet, Jannick, and Mieke Van Houtte. "School belonging and school misconduct: The differing role of teacher and peer attachment." Journal of youth and adolescence 41 (2012): 499-514.

Law, P. C., Cuskelly, M., & Carroll, A. (2013). Young people’s perceptions of family, peer, and school connectedness and their impact on adjustment. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 23(1), 115–140. doi:10.1017/jgc.2012.19.

Lewis, Ramon, and Eva Burman. "Providing for student voice in classroom management: Teachers’ views." International Journal of Inclusive Education 12.2 (2008): 151-167.

Roeser, Robert W., Carol Midgley, and Timothy C. Urdan. "Perceptions of the school psychological environment and early adolescents' psychological and behavioral functioning in school: The mediating role of goals and belonging." Journal of educational psychology 88.3 (1996): 408.

Show more posts

Recent entries
Impactful Teaching Strategies for PSHE and Student Wellbeing
Building Belonging at School with LEGO and Purposeful Play Belonging; ...
ONLINE LEGO® Serious Play®
“People expect to be bored by eLearning - let’s show them it doesn’t ...
The Four C's: Why LEGO Serious Play in Education... and Why Now?
The Purpose of Education In his famous TED Talk on schools and creativity, ...
Legal Geek and LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®
Blog Post by SeriousWork Graduate and ProMet associate Vics Bradley. ...
Workshops Work Podcast - part 1
Myriam Hadnes runs the Workshops Work Podcast, and in episode 136 she ...
乐高 工作法 实战手册 - LEGO Work Method Practical Manual
Well this is exciting news, our first book SERIOUSWORK, first published in ...
Back to School: LEGO Serious Play @ United World College South East Asia
A (wonderful) graduate story by Liam Isaac - Head of Digital ...
What would you do if you had all the free time in the world?
This is a (brilliant) guest blog post from SeriousWork ...
Report from Build Level 3 System Model ONLINE training pilot
We love designing and testing ideas before we launch new techniques or ...
Podcast - The Lego Serious Play Facilitation Method with Sean Blai‪r‬
William Corless from YellowWood recently made a podcast with Sean. From the ...
Price Rise for ONLINE training
You may remember in January we gave you a taste of some of our plans for ...
What to expect from SeriousWork in the year ahead
As we say goodbye (and I’m sure for some of us ‘good riddance’!) to ...
All children are born artists by Sirte Pihlaja
We need a more experimental, startup mentality to disrupt our old ways of ...
How COVID-19 created our new book ONLINE
Here's the back story to our new book. March 2020 was set to be a busy ...
Learning to facilitate LEGO Serious Play Online - By Dr Rebekah Wilson
The blog post below was written by SeriousWork graduate Dr Rebekah Wilson ...
Tosin Interviews Sean - A Podcast on LEGO Serious Play, including some of the secrets of #OnlineLSP
Tosin Adebisi is, accodoring to his mum, "a specialist in human-centered ...
A message to graduates of all LSP trainings. Yes you can facilitate LEGO Serious Play online :)
El Capitan also known as El Cap, is a vertical rock formation in Yosemite ...
Virtual LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® – Is Online Shared Model Building possible?
The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® community is blessed with innovators (like the ...
LEGO, SERIOUS PLAY, the Minifigure and the Brick and Knob configurations are trademarks of the LEGO Group, which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this website. SeriousWork respects and aligns with the the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® trademark guidelines

SERIOUSWORK uses the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method described in the LEGO Group Open Source Guide made available by LEGO under a Creative Commons licence ‘Attribution Share Alike’

©SERIOUSWORK 2023. SeriousWork and ProMeet are a part of Serious Outcomes Ltd a UK based company number 11115058.