LEGOs at the Library

Spring Break finally arrived, much to the delight of local school-aged kids! Lots of families left town on vacation, headed off to state hockey championships, or just took time to stock up in the big city. For kids sticking around, outside play was sometimes difficult in the constantly changing, belated, Winter-like weather. I hosted a simple “hang out and build” style LEGOs at the Library program to help ward off some of the cabin fever. It was the second program like this that we’ve held Spring Break weatherthis year. We’ve been wanting to add a monthly LEGO program ever since we started our annual Summer@HPL LEGO contest a few years ago. Time has always been an issue, but since the new year I’ve been trying to squeeze in a build session each month.

There are a bunch of resources online for starting a LEGO Club or hosting individual programs at your library. I looked at many of them before our first program last summer (part of our Maker Monday series during Summer@HPL, our summer reading program). LEGO Quest offers a long list of challenge themes that give any program a place to start. I have incorporated a couple of these themes into each of my programs. Last week, I also shared still images from some of the challenge pages on our large screen TV to help inspire the builders in house. In addition to seeing ideas for building, the kids loved reading the narrative with each image and finding out where the creators were from.

My program
Ages: 7-12 years (we also had a couple of younger siblings and a couple of dads which worked out fine)
Number of people: 20 (girls, boys, and dads)
Staff: 1
Location: our library’s meeting room which has offers lots of floor space and is closed off from the main part of the library
Program duration: 1 hour (I tried a 2 hour program last month but that seemed too long)
Goal: to ward off cabin fever, inspire budding engineers, promote collaboration, build community, have fun
Materials: (Amy Koester posts about how to start a program on the Star Net Libraries blog and provides a great list of supplies)

  • a giant tub of LEGO bricks in various sizes
  • 10 building plates in various sizes
  • small tub of mini figures
  • small tub of windows and doors
  • small tub of wheels of various sizes
  • paper cups for distributing LEGOs
  • smartphone or camera for taking pictures of creations
  • paper and pen for builders nameplates (for pictures)

Program Format
Introduction (approx. 3-5 minutes): I welcome kids, introduce myself, explain how the hour is going to work, and remind them where the bathroom is. I let kids know that what they build will stay at the library, but we’ll take pictures and post them online (creations and nameplates only) to help memorialize what they made. I also remind them to stay in the room until the hour is up. This isn’t an issue but let’s parents know they need to pick up their builder when the program is over.

Challenge #1 (approx. 10 minutes): Build on your own with two cups full of random LEGO bricks for 10 minutes.
I start each program with this challenge. This is designed to get the creative juices flowing and let’s everyone get on the same page as latecomers arrive. I walk around and pour two cups of LEGOs in front of each builder. I remind kids this isn’t a contest so they can start building as soon as they have LEGOs. Kids quickly got to work and relished the time to just build. I give everyone a 2 minute warning when we’re about done with the first challenge.

Share (approx. 5 minutes): Everyone gets a chance to show what they built and tell the group about their first creation. I ask each builder to introduce themselves as well. Since our town is pretty small, most kids know each other already.

Challenge #2 (approx. 10 minutes): Build something monochromatic (one color or tones of one color) on your own or with another builder.
Kids can get more LEGOs if they want to or use what they have. This challenge introduced new vocabulary and concepts for many of the kids who didn’t know what monochromatic meant. Again most kids barely hesitated before they were off imagining new creatures, vehicles and scenes. If kids don’t want to build the challenge, I’m fine with that.

Share (approx. 5 minutes): Everyone talks about their second design. I walk around take pictures of finished designs as kids are building. (See short video below which I shared on our Facebook page).

Challenge #3 (approx. 10-15 minutes): Build a creature (real or imagined) and think about its habitat.
We talked about habitat and what exactly is a “creature.” We decided it needed to be alive and how we know what is alive. For the younger kids this was more of brain bender because of the added science elements, but both hong and old made some interesting beings.

Share (approx. 3-5 minutes)

Free Build: Builders continued to add to anything they built during the previous challenges, teamed up with new partners, or began to clean up.

Clean up: I ask each builder to break apart their design(s) and put all the LEGOs they used away before they leave. Since I took photos of most of the designs, the builders were less sad about breaking them apart. So far, clean up has never been an issue and there even some parents who help the process go more quickly.

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