The Building Blocks For Great Ideas
The LEGO program for kids is full of amazing STEM-based extra-curricular activities that Extra Ed offers as a lunchtime or after school program. We build different projects with themes such as cities, castles, animal habitats, amusement parks, the four seasons, four elements, and much more. We focus primarily on engineering (how best to make the structure sturdy so it doesn’t fall over) all the while making each activity fun and engaging by students working on such developmental skills as teamwork, communication, fine motor skills, and problem solving.
When given the theme at the start of each LEGO class, the children participate in a creative and imaginative brainstorming session with their group, and discuss what they can build for each structure. Watching the children build and letting their imaginations take over is a huge part of why I enjoy teaching this class. It just starts off with an idea from the instructor. From there, it is incredible to watch the depths of students’ imaginations while still keeping with the theme and parameters of the build. When the students build cities, we discuss what goes into a real city: such as houses, roads, traffic lights, buildings. And when they build a house, the discussion is, will it be 1 storey or 2? How will you build the second story? How will you build a TV, chairs, couches, different rooms? Will you build a roof, but if you do, we can’t see what’s inside? Once they finish the house, the instructor then guides them to build the outside; front lawn, backyard, swing set, swimming pool, gardens, garage, driveway.
When we build sports arenas, the brainstorming sessions go wild. The students mention soccer fields, football fields, baseball diamonds, gymnastics studios, swimming pools, tennis courts just to name a few. But then the big question from the instructor comes: For soccer or football, are you just going to use green pieces? For pools, are you just going to use blue? For hockey rinks, are you just going to use white? Some of the students say yes, and then the imagination begins… what about the white pieces for the out of bounds lines, goalie creases, the white lines for the yardage, different colour pieces to differentiate the swimming pool lanes, the red line, blue line, centre ice. The bleachers, concession stands, locker rooms. Then some students take it one step further: getting a smaller LEGO board and making a scoreboard for the arenas. The parking lot outside. Sometimes, students even build an arch way with initials of the stadium.
All of these discussions serve as the backbone of the epicentre of what goes into running these incredible hands-on programs. As an instructor, it is amazing to see the students take a general theme such as a sports arena, and just run with it and build these structures with their classmates. In every class, once the students start building in groups, the teachers go around to them and help them build and discuss some more ideas. At the end of the class, students walk around and have a chance to showcase to everyone else what they built and can present to their fellow LEGO Engineers.