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Photo courtesy of Joy Wade.
Students learn through playing with Legos with Bricks 4 Kidz.
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Teaching STEM concepts — science, technology, engineering and math — does not always require textbooks. Sometimes, all it takes are a few Legos.
Bricks 4 Kidz, a franchise with about 600 locations internationally, first came to Shelby County in 2012. This year, its after-school lessons will continue at some Hoover City Schools.
“You can count on us to teach science and engineering concepts with every class or camp or even birthday party we do,” said Joy Wade, a retired educator who owns the Bricks 4 Kidz franchise in Shelby County.
This fall, in-school workshops will be held at Deer Valley, Gwin and Riverchase elementary schools, Wade said.
Students receive a kit during the program, which includes all of the parts they need to build a variety of models. Each model is planned out by a team of designers, and all model plans are different than what can be purchased in stores. In addition to focusing on STEM, Wade said building the models works on other skill sets as well.
“I think it develops problem-solving skills, No. 1, [and] creative thinking,” she said.
Students also take apart their models at the end of each class and have to place the pieces and parts back in their kits, which Wade said helps develop and emphasize the importance of organizational skills.
Students work in pairs to build their models, and Wade said she encourages them to ask each other questions. When one pair asks for help, oftentimes she will give them a few minutes to work further on the problem before stopping by to offer help.
“If they both need help and they tell me they need me, I never go right over to them,” she said. “I let them wait a few minutes … Most of the time, by the time I get back to them, they’ll tell me, ‘Oh, we’ve figured it out.’”
Students can oftentimes find solutions on their own because they are enthusiastic about the project — fueled by their love of Legos — and do not want to wait before moving on to the next step, Wade said.
“If children are motivated to solve the problem, most of the time, they’re much better at it than if they don’t really care,” she said.
Kits come in several difficulty levels, which Wade said helps the program fit in after-school programs that include a wide range of ages, for example kindergarten through fifth graders, rather than simply kindergarten through third or second grade. The kits also come in handy, she said, if there is a student who excels at their first few kits.
“If, after the first class, I see I have a really, really skilled builder, I’ll bring something more difficult for that child,” she said.
Courses are consistently developing, and each year new programs, themes and models are introduced, Wade said.
Lesson plans to meet and teach new science standards are also in the works, Wade said, which she hopes will help teachers through in-school field trip programs and after-school enrichment.
“We are really hoping to get other schools, other teachers to schedule in-school workshops with us because we will address standards,” she said. “And we will bring Legos, and the kids will have fun.”
For more information, go to http://www.bricks4kidz.com/alabama-hoover-birmingham/ or Bricks 4 Kids – Hoover, AL on Facebook.
This article was updated on Sept. 14 to correct the name of Riverchase Elementary School.