To finish up this week about Curiosity, I wanted to share the story of a remarkable boy named Stijn who lives in Holland and builds Lego at a very advanced level. (H/T Gizmodo)
He started out just like any other kid: “I think most people still remember the first time they got a Lego or Duplo model. […] When he turned five, he started to build with actual Lego. For that birthday, he got one of the old Creator sets. But—more surprisingly—at that early age he also began making Lego Technic sets. These are made for 14 year old kids and older. Technic is quite complex. Too complex for a five-year-old. But not for Stijn.
So far his story fits many other child prodigies. They always start early and they are challenged early. This does present an interesting question along the lines of nature vs nurture. Is Stijn very good with Lego because of some kind of genetic bias towards Lego building or is the fact he got started early and was allowed to develop as fast as he wanted? I think it’s a split but not 50/50. I think he has a natural adaptation that allows him to be good at this but I think it’s more about the fact he was allowed to progress quickly. His curiosity was kindled at a young age and was allowed to progress unfettered.
The story continues:
Still, his path wasn’t different from most other kids back then, aside from expanding his repertoire; “I got interested in Lego Star Wars, which started when I bought myself the X-Wing,” he says. Stijn kept collecting these but then something changed. He discovered that he could do a lot more than just follow the instructions for branded sets. That’s when he found out about World War II. (emphasis mine)
This is the critical part. He was exposed to this toy and followed the direction first. He really started to blossom though when he was allowed to set his own path. You don’t get to do this in school. Instead he turned to the Internet and like all creative people, it multiplied his learning speed and effect on everyone else.
This is when he learned advanced building techniques: “when I discovered Flickr, I found out that there was a HUGE Lego community going on! Reactions on builds, comments, favorites! It was the perfect system for every young builder.” Flickr is used by Lego fans to share their creations. They like it especially for its image annotation abilities, which allows them to highlight details and comment on them.
He joined the website, started to post his creations and garnered positive response from the community almost right away. More importantly, he gained knowledge. “I learned new techniques from other builders,” he says. They taught him new techniques and he “became better and better.”
You see he did have teacher didn’t he? He was able to learn from others online but he always controlled the speed, direction and topics of his learning. This is learning in the 21st century. It doesn’t look like school does it?
So why is he a future Lego workshop employee?
- He was exposed to this as early as he could handle. (good timing)
- He was given a lot of time to explore this which sparked his curiosity. (flexibility)
- Nobody told him what to build or how. He learned one skill which led to the next. (driven by curiosity)
- He connected to a network of fellow learners which accelerated his learning. (Internet Enhances the Creative)
- He was both student and teacher. (most disruptive force)
- He has no stopping point to his learning, in fact it will probably life long.
I still have my Lego sets from when I was a kid, and my new son is going to get them all.
Click on the pic for Stijn’s Lego creations!