Lego Clubs have been a staple of library programming for the past decade, as it’s nearly guaranteed to attract a crowd. And STEM has been proven to enrich children’s lives with its focus on hands on problem solving and critical thinking. So it’s only natural for the two to come together, as engineering is already the main focus of Lego Club. Only now it can be elevated to a whole new level, as STEM-powered Lego Club combines the mass appeal of an already popular program with analytical and scientific processes that can develop and inspire young minds.
For the past few years, I’ve run my Lego Club like an engineering laboratory. Each time we meet we don’t build around a theme, but rather around a challenge. Can you build a pipeline out of Legos that can actually hold and direct water? Can you think in new directions and build on a board that’s taped upside-down to the bottom of a table? Can you create a car that can drive straight and not rip apart when fired out of a slingshot?
Sound daunting? It’s doesn’t have to be! It won’t change your budget or your setup time radically. The only thing that changes is your outlook on what the program can offer. Think it will be too hard for your patrons? It won’t be. For my club, everyone is always given the opportunity to opt out of the challenge and do their own thing, but nearly everyone, regardless of age, accepts the challenges and rises to it to the best of their ability.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with just building a castle or a house. Building for its own sake is fun and rewarding in its own right, as most models of play theory propose a link between play and cognitive development. But building around a STEM focus elevates the play even further, promoting problem solving, and working through trial and error to see what will work and what won’t. Kids must unlock their creativity and at times collaborate with others in order to complete a challenge. Overall, it exceeds the needs of what a library program should be: fun, engaging, and educational. And it’s this new approach to Lego Club that will keep families coming back for more. Unlike a theme, a challenge is something to plan for and overcome, leaving everyone wondering what the next challenge could possibly be.
What are your Lego STEM ideas? Let us know in the comments below!
(All photos courtesy of guest blogger)
Today’s guest blogger is Peter Blenski. Peter has been a librarian in the Milwaukee County area for the past 6 years. He reviews graphic novels for Booklist and picture books for School Library Journal. His blog, www.legolibrarian.com, contains several ideas for STEM-powered Lego Clubs.
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