Lego Time Starts Young Children on the STEM Path at Local Libraries

Problem-solving and engineering opportunities come disguised in the form of fun Lego building.

by Jerre Redecker, The Olympian (Olympia, Wash.) / March 10, 2016 0
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(TNS) — It's a kid's dream: bins and bins of Legos, endless numbers of colored bricks, wheels, wings and pieces from long-retired sets.

It's Lego time at Timberland Regional Libraries, which schedule regular building events so children can express their creativity.

Lego events differ from library to library, but most sites in the Southwest Washington library system offer the popular gatherings, which draw 15-40 kids. Some events are structured for different ages, and libraries generally schedule the events weekly, bi-monthly or monthly.

Regina Reeves was at the Tumwater library's Lego Crew last week with her children Owen, 3, and Zoe, 5.

As her kids began their projects, thinking out loud about what their creations were to become, Reeves said, "They enjoy creating. There are different parts than we have at home."

"This is a house," Owen announced, placing a brick for a couch and putting a car "outside."

There's only one rule for Lego time, youth services librarian Mari Nowitz said: "The Lego is for sharing."

Although the bins were for everyone, participants also got a red plastic cup for their own collection of project pieces. And the figures were rationed out, one per builder until everyone had at least one.

Zoe debated between choosing a horse or a figure. Her spaceship was under construction. "The horse is going to go on the ground," she decided, passing it up for a figure. Eventually, her spaceship is captained by a cowboy, with a robot in the co-pilot's seat. The cowboy's horse remained on the ground.

Nowitz said vehicles are favorite subjects, as well as rockets, spaceships, houses and robots.

First-time Lego Crew visitor Danielle Long of Tumwater was there with Jonah, 6, and Miranda, 3. Miranda stayed close to mom, who read her stories, while Jonah dove into building. He plays with Legos all the time at home, Long said, so she knew he would like the activity.

Near the end of the session, Miranda's curiosity drew her to the play table and Long got out her knitting — a Big Lebowski sweater for her husband's 40th birthday. Don't worry, it's not a secret, she said. "There's no way he can't know. It's everywhere with me," she said.

The Lego events aren't just fun and games. Whether a child makes something up or works on the structured challenge, he or she is problem solving and engineering, Nowitz said. Then when the projects are put on display, the children are asked to tell their story.

"Playing stimulates the storytelling part of their brain," Nowitz said, adding that the skills fit into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) goals, as well as art. The program also gets children into the library and they get interested in other offerings, she said.

Toward the end of the hour, kids take their creations out for display and the leftover Legos go back into the bins.

That makes Lego Crew a dream for parents, too: No tiny cruel plastic pieces at home to step on with bare feet.

©2016 The Olympian (Olympia, Wash.), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.