LEGO Foundation praises playful learning with award of 2020 LEGO prize
The Sector > Quality > LEGO Foundation praises playful learning with award of 2020 LEGO prize

LEGO Foundation praises playful learning with award of 2020 LEGO prize

by Freya Lucas

March 23, 2020

The LEGO Foundation has recognised the work of AnnMarie Thomas, Founder and Director of the Playful Learning Lab and Professor in the School of Engineering at the University of St. Thomas, for her work in advocating for and catalysing learning through play.


The Foundation is dedicated to building a future where learning through play empowers children to become creative, engaged, lifelong learners. Its work is about re-defining play and re-imagining learning. In collaboration with thought leaders, influencers, educators and parents the LEGO Foundation aims to equip, inspire and activate champions for learning through play.


Since 1985, the LEGO® Prize has been awarded to individuals or organizations that have made an outstanding contribution to the lives of children and are champions of learning through play. The prize is accompanied by a cash award of $100,000 to further research and development within learning-through-play and creativity, which was awarded to Ms Thomas earlier this month. 


Ms Thomas said she was “very honoured” to have been recognised, and to be joining the ranks of other recipients “working to bring the power of learning through play to all students”. 


“This Prize will allow the Playful Learning Lab to increase the scale of our work, in collaboration with our friends at Minnesota Children’s Museum and Metro Deaf School,” she added.


The announcement was made during the first-ever virtual LEGO Idea Conference where the LEGO Foundation hosted a digital, immersive event inviting more than 1,400 researchers, government representatives, educators, practitioners and social innovators through streamed keynotes, breakout sessions, interactive learning and digital Q&As. 


Inspired by the growing emphasis on creativity in today’s communities, education systems and economies – with the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report identifying creativity as the third most essential skill to have – this year’s theme was “Making Creativity Happen: How Can We Cultivate Creative Skills For All Children?” The event advanced practical approaches to help cultivate creativity in education systems around the world.


Notable participants and presenters included: 

  • Andreas Schleicher, the event’s keynote speaker and Director for Education and Skills, and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General at the OECD
  • Damian Kulash, frontman of the rock group OK Go
  • Alan Armstrong, Strategic Director of Education Scotland
  • Diane Hebb, Director of Engagement and Participation at Arts Council of Wales
  • Andria Zafirakou, recipient of the 2018 Global Teacher Prize; 
  • Mitchel Resnick, Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab; and 
  • Carly Ciarrocchi, star of Sprout’s Sunny Side Up and host of the conference, among others.


“In this age of rapid innovation, children will encounter unimaginable advances and have to navigate unpredictable dilemmas, and the traditional learning method of fact memorisation and regurgitation is not sufficient to enable them to survive and thrive in this environment. Instead, education systems must proactively incorporate solutions to enable children to develop a breadth of skills – including physical, social, cognitive, emotional and, especially, creativity,” said John Goodwin, CEO of the LEGO Foundation. 


“This year’s virtual conference gathered Creativity Champions from all over the world to learn how caregivers, teachers and government systems can leverage approaches such as learning through play to help children develop their creativity, as a skill and a mindset to carry with them for their lifetimes.”


The LEGO Foundation also released two new publications that complement this year’s program and outline the importance of promoting creativity in children around the world:



The LEGO Foundation’s aim of building a future where learning through play empowers children to become creative, engaged, lifelong learners dovetails with the learning outcomes, principles and practices of both the Early Years Learning Framework and the Framework for School Aged Care. 


To learn more about the work of the Foundation, please see here. 

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