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Julian Jackson stood at the base of the Bartholomew County Courthouse and looked up at the clock that provides the time for hundreds of people a day.
He studied the building’s color, its materials and the way bricklayers staggered rows of the exterior building material more than 100 years ago to make the historic structure last for multiple generations.
About 20 minutes later, the boy and other children ages 5 to 7 tried the staggering technique with Lego building blocks. Their conclusion: The technique works even with plastic toys.
Kidscommons children’s museum in downtown Columbus hosted 24 students the week of Oct. 14 for Lego Building Basics, a class that introduces design and building concepts and serves as a springboard to higher-level Lego classes for children who want to continue.
The students, divided into two classes of 12 students each, participated during the two-week fall break in the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.
Parents said they were willing to pay the roughly $100 class fee to give their children a new experience that would introduce them to valuable concepts and perhaps blossom into a deeper interest in math and science.
“It gives them a good start,” said Leiyuan Li, the father of Darren, 8, and Vincia, 5. “I think these skills are necessary.”
Jie Huang said she wanted her 7-year-old daughter Iris to have valuable new experiences. Huang said she wanted to nurture her daughter’s knack and interest in building things with her hands.
The first day of the class gave students a chance to get to know one another, then they walked across Washington Street to the Commons and the courthouse to note the colors, materials and shapes on the buildings.
They wrote their observations on a clipboard in an exercise that class teacher Liz Peterson Damm said was intended to get the children thinking about different things and perhaps serve as inspiration during free building time that was scheduled for later that week.
Students noted that The Commons has a lot of glass. They then crossed Third Street and concluded as they stood at the foot of the courthouse that it has a lot of bricks.
But there’s more to it than that.
Damm pointed out building techniques to the students, specifically how bricks are staggered to strengthen the courthouse walls.
She said it was an easy introduction into a world that could see certain children advance to Lego Engineering and Lego Robotics, which will take place during the summer.
Legos are an engaging and fun way to teach building concepts, she said. The beauty of it is that it has something to offer to children who prefer open-ended play, as well as to children who prefer to follow an instruction guide.
“Legos are friendly to everyone,” Damm said. “You’re using math. You’re using science. You learn by trial-and-error just by testing with your hands what works and what doesn’t.”
It even develops fine motor skills, as children tinker with small pieces.
Diane Robbins, community relations and marketing manager for kidscommons, said the children’s museum often coordinates its activities to coincide with the school calendar.
In years past, that meant a lot of summer programming while children were on an extended summer vacation. But now that BCSC has adopted a balanced school calendar that lengthens breaks in the spring and fall, museum officials are trying to accommodate those periods as well.
She said offering Lego Building Basics in the fall has alleviated some of the stress from the summer version of the program. For that reason, the museum was able to accept more students than it normally would.
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