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Identity & Essence Lego Activity


  • Explore ideas and questions regarding how objects (and our perceptions of them) change.
  • Have fun while doing philosophy by utilizing a hands-on activity involving Legos.
  • Rigorously examine the topic at hand with at least 15 minutes worth of large-group discussion.

Time Needed: At least 45 minutes

Materials Needed:

  • Legos (the more the better)
  • Something on which to display/write out class thoughts (chalkboard, whiteboard, SMARTboard)
  • Camera (optional)


  • Have Legos divided up according to how groups will be organized i.e. in separate piles, or in one large pile.


  1. (Optional) Warm up and get a sense of our intuitions about the topic either by presenting anecdotes,  questions, or connecting to previous discussions.
    Example: My car is always breaking down, and last time I did this activity I wondered aloud at the beginning of class: “Since I’ve had to take my engine apart and replace a bunch of stuff, do I really have the same car?”
  2. Break out the Legos and let everyone know they have 10 minutes to create anything they would like as long as they can tell the group a) it’s name b) what it does and c) why they chose to make it. I also mention that no one should get too attached to their object, but don’t yet explain why.
  3. Time has a way of flying away during this activity, so as soon as the 10 minutes are up, I ask the group to begin presenting their objects one by one. I write each object’s name, function, and reason for being made on the board.
    Optionally, you can also take photos of each object to help track how they change over the course of the activity.
  4. To some students’ dismay, I then ask everyone to pass their objects to their neighbors. I tell everyone that they now have 2 minutes to make an alteration or two to their new object.
    Some students might complain about their creations being modified–This can be treated like disruptive behavior or it can be seen as an avenue for discusison. What is so bothersome about something we’ve created being modified by someone else? Is it not our object anymore once it’s been changed? etc. etc.
  5. After everyone is done altering their new object, we can ask one or two students to share what they’ve done, and track these changes on the board. What did you change, and why? Were you trying to stay true to the original object, or did you want to completely redesign it? We can ask the original creator–is it still your object, or is it something new? Would you still call it by its original name?
  6. After two or three rounds of passing objects along and modifying them, ask everyone to return all objects to their original creators. Give everyone a moment to acquaint themselves with their objects again, and think about whether or not it’s still the object they originally created.
  7. With about 15 minutes remaining, we can discuss what it means for an object to “stay the same”. Alternatively, students can be asked to brainstorm questions that the activity raises and vote on one they’d like to discuss. Possible questions could be “Do people change in similar ways?”, “Are we still the same people?”, “Does something change when it is used for a different purpose?” or “Does something change if it’s called by a different name?”


Connects to:

  • Hello, Red Fox by Eric Carle
    • Do things change depending on how you look at or experience them?
    • Are things really changing when we look at them in different ways? (i.e. when we notice more details in a book we’ve read twice)

(Designed with grades 4-8 in mind)


This lesson plan was contributed by Dustin Groshong.