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For local students, Lego camps a block party of creativity
[June 11, 2013]

For local students, Lego camps a block party of creativity

Jun 11, 2013 (The Gazette (Colorado Springs - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Not only do kids love Legos, but they can learn from them.

Eight-year-old Lane Bales built a fighter airplane Monday, using Lego pieces he doesn't have at home. "It taught me that sometimes when you build something cool it gives you ideas for other cool stuff," said the third-grader from French Elementary, pushing at the sleek, dark panels of his toy aircraft.

Imagination Celebration is hosting two Lego camps this week at Imagination Space in The Citadel mall to introduce children ages 5-11 to basic engineering concepts. The workshops, produced by Play-Well TEKnologies, couple simple shapes with engineering to help children be more creative, said Deborah Thornton, executive director of Imagination Celebration.

"You just see a child's eyes light up when you mention Legos," said Thornton, whose official title is curious choreographer of creativity. "Every human is creative, and it comes out in lots of different ways." Studded and nonstudded "holey beams," gears, belts, pulleys, motors and battery packs are some of the more than 100,000 Lego pieces used to apply physics, engineering and architecture concepts to creations such as bridges, motorized cars and skyscrapers.

Lego robotics, an increasingly popular area of study, gives older kids in the camp -- those ages 8-11 -- a chance to learn about calculations such as gear ratios and mechanical engineering, said Joyce Ruddy, an instructor with Play-Well. For younger children, merely playing with the Legos helps with hand-eye coordination, she added.

Ruddy, a former high school math teacher, said that toying with Legos helps students build spatial abilities. She would like to see more students get involved in engineering.

The Lego campers will work on 30 projects throughout the week, said Ruddy. What starts as a car one day may turn into a float for a mini-parade.

"I've got a car that can move by itself," said Lyss Lini, 9, as she started the toy motor, quickly jumping to catch the car as it whizzed toward the edge of the table. Lyss, going into fourth grade at James Irwin Charter Elementary School, said she probably will be a scientist when she grows up.

Noah Magri, 10, built a house with its own power source. "I'm not going to build a roof on it because then I wouldn't be able to get my hand in," he said.

Andy Mandabach, a 9-year-old at Taylor Elementary, made a village for "minifigs," or Lego minifigures, acting as if the term would be part of anyone's basic vocabulary. A minifig construction worker and his wife watch over Andy's creation, complete with a power source, satellite system and car port.

Whether tinkering around in the Tinkering Center, reconstructing or deconstructing objects, or repurposing material, Thornton aims for Imagination Celebration to blend curiosity, play and experimentation.

"I'm seeing kids that aren't used to seeing in three dimensions," she said, mentioning increased use of screens as a reason for children not having enough time for hands-on interaction. "I think we have to be aware of how much time we're all spending on devices," she continued, gesturing to her new iPhone 5.

"We're always looking for what helps prompt critical thinking and creative thinking." ___ (c)2013 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Visit The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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