Students building skills by building with Legos

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Nobody told young Lego builders at Ryerson Heights School they were learning construction, design and teamwork skills over the past six weeks.


The kids just thought they were having fun.


On Wednesday, parents came in to see the results of Ryerson Heights’s Jr. First Lego League, a group of 30 students in Grades 2 to 4 who participated in the after-school program.


“I like making new ideas for our creation,” said Grade 2 student Camren Axiak as he demonstrated the working parts of his group’s Lego volcano.


It was Camren’s love of building that prompted his mother, Darlene Axiak, to bring the Jr. First Lego League to Ryerson Heights, the only school in Brantford currently offering the program.


“In kindergarten, when other kids were making pictures of flowers and animals, Camren was drawing a blueprint of a water treatment plant,” she said.


The junior league was developed from First Lego League, a program for nine- to 14-year-olds. Both are a partnership between First (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and The Lego Group.


“It was started to promote more engineering and technology in the schools,” said Peggy Scott, the junior league co-ordinator who was at Ryerson Heights on Wednesday checking out the student creations. “We always celebrate sports but not engineering feats so much.”


Each year, a program theme is chosen related to a “real, happening problem,” said Scott. This year’s theme was Disaster Blaster. Students were asked to research the topic and even contact professionals in the field.


“The model has to be a simple machine with a motorized part,” said Scott. “It’s a wonderful, hands-on learning experience. They are using the Lego not just as a toy, but as a learning tool.”


Ryerson Heights students created models of tsunamis, volcanos, earthquakes and tornados and were asked to come up with disaster plans and recovery strategies for their little Lego people.


“I like to build crossbows,” said eight-year-old Molly Parkin, the only girl in her group of seven. “I like to play with Lego at home.”


Design and construction of their Lego models is done over a series of 90-minute after-school sessions.


Scott said the program can inspire young people to pursue further studies and careers in the fields of science, technology and engineering.


Almost 130 teams across Ontario are involved in this year’s program.


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