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Colleagues from the School of Education have undertaken a research project into ‘The role of LEGO bricks in supporting community cohesion: a case study of Shared Education in Northern Ireland’, and as a follow-up activity to this project, an event ‘Builders of the Future! was recently held on the Coleraine campus.

This event gave Primary 7 pupils from two local Primary schools in Coleraine, Millburn PS and St Malachy’s PS, the opportunity to come together to use LEGO bricks to build their idea of what the town of Coleraine might look like in the future.

The two schools have been working together for the whole school year on a Shared Education initiative, which has been made possible through a partnership between staff in the School of Education, Professor Roger Austin and Mrs Beverley McCormick, working alongside the teachers from the two schools, Darrell Coyles and Ali Handforth.

This was the final event in this cross-community project which has seen the teachers in these two primary schools work together and use a blended learning approach to facilitate a shared learning experience for their students, with both face to face and online interactions.

At the Lego event, the pupils worked in seven mixed teams, with their teachers and classroom assistants, to showcase their understanding of shared spaces, community collaboration and purposeful learning.

They created places for worship, schools, leisure facilities, a business park, housing, medical care, and retail. Furthermore, the teams had been asked to think about how their individual parts meet the needs for environmental sustainability.

To support and guide students into conditions of effective town planning, (name, role and company), a STEM Ambassador from the University, Beverley McCormick, offered valuable support for the project by sharing with pupils some ideas and suggestions that they should consider when developing their town of the future.

The event was also attended by 16 students from Davidson College, North Carolina, USA and their Lecturer Dr Shireen Campbell. Hosted by AHSS, these students were taking part in a summer school which focused on education in Northern Ireland.  They were invited to our event to observe Shared Education in practice, and they also had the opportunity to take part in a Question and Answer session focusing on their observation of the event and their understanding of education in Northern Ireland.

Reflecting on the impact of the project last year, which formed the basis of this second year of the project, Beverley McCormick, Lecturer in Education (Primary Specialism), explained:

“Qualitative data showed that the teachers from these two schools, working in partnership with each other and with colleagues from Ulster University, played a pivotal role not only in planning the activity but in modelling a respectful working relationship. Other contributory factors included equal numbers of pupils taking part, the construction of small cross-community teams and the use of facilities in a neutral location. Furthermore, the use of LEGO bricks was seen as critical in providing all of the pupils with an attainable 3D goal in which their own team contribution was visibly part of a wider cooperative task.”

Professor Roger Austin, Emeritus Professor of Education, concluded:

“The process of working together in cross-community teams has encouraged the two classes to think carefully about key issues to do with shared spaces and trying to make the town a welcoming place for everyone.

“I would like to thank Professor David Barr who gave approval for the programme, and colleagues from across the School of Education and other university departments who supported the project including the final event in Coleraine.”

Professor David Barr, Head of the School of Education, commended the project as another example of the very strong partnership between the University’s School of Education and local teachers, as well as support from the Education Authority and in particular Mr Paul Close, Head of Share Education and Sectoral Support.

Find out more:

For more information on the research project, visit Case Study: The Role of Lego Bricks in Supporting Community Cohesion.

If you have any further questions concerning the project, contact Beverley McCormick by email to