Monday, September 19, 2016

Bricks 4 Kidz

What if I told you there was a program starting up near you where kids can learn STEM concepts and skills year-round by constructing machines, buildings, vehicles and other projects with LEGO bricks?

You'd say you want to be a kid again? Me, too!

Big Bro and I were invited to a sneak peek of the Bricks 4 Kidz program, which will be part of the soon-to-open Club Square facility in Kanata. Club Square will feature zones for coding and online gaming, cooking, arts and crafts, and science activities.

Don't get your shoes on yet; it's not due to open until later this fall. But we got to try a sample workshop, and here's what it was like:

The instructor, with a strong background in programming and robotics, led a short interactive lesson on gears. Big Bro was anxious to get to the hands-on part ("I'm ready to build now!" he'd announce every so often).

Soon enough, the kids were handed a toolbox of parts and bricks, along with a tablet featuring step-by-step instructions much like the leaflets you get with Lego sets.
Yes. This is what I'm talkin' about. 

Using gears and a motor, the kids made a 'Paper Crinkler" and "Plate Spinner". These were two of the (over 300!)  proprietary projects designed by engineers, architects and teachers for Bricks 4 Kidz.

What was really cool to see (besides the machines put in motion, of course) was how the activity appealed to a wide age range. At 5-and-a-half, Big Bro was by far the youngest, so he needed some parental help, which I was happy to contribute, but he really enjoyed the project. Watching the plate spin, he was brainstorming all kinds of inventions that he could use it for (Dusting? Brushing teeth? Passing out snacks?). The older kids, aged 11 and 15, started modifying their machines, making all kinds of elaborate inventions, even disappearing into the hall at one point to test them out. How often do you find a workshop that appeals to a 5-year-old and a 15-year-old all at once?

Big Bro's only two beefs were that he couldn't take the machines home (though he did have a little project created with their help) and that he couldn't stay longer. Oh yes, I'm picturing this will be the kind of place parents will have to drag their kids from.

Although...FYI, there IS going to be a café and young kids' play area in Club Square, so maybe giving them "a few more minutes" wouldn't be out of the question.

Bricks 4 Kidz has programs for kids of all ages, from Duplos for the under-five builders to advanced robotics clubs for teens. They do after-school programs and birthday parties. They also have a homeschool program (woot!) and offer workshops for groups up to 20 people. I can hear the parents of little makers and LEGO fanatics lighting up now.

If all this wasn't appealing enough, I'm told there will be tool belts and badges kids can earn as they master different skills and techniques. I don't know about your kids, but mine would be all over these tangible milestones.

How many more kids will pursue engineering, architecture, robotics and coding because of engaging programs like these? Well, whether they do or not, they'll be learning STEM principles and skills in the only way that learning makes sense-- when they're engaged and interested, and that's what you'll see at Bricks 4 Kidz.

Monday, September 05, 2016

If You Give a Kid Some Tape...

Do you have a maker kid at your house?

I do! The good people at Dollarama probably recognize me as the one always buying armloads of masking tape. No toy can compare to the endless possibilities of tape. I recently had to take apart a pirate ship made of two dining room chairs held together by a pantload of tape (complete with flag), much to Big Bro's dismay. We did need them for sitting, eventually.

For all of you fellow parents with maker kids at home, I have written a story in the "If You Give..." style of Laura Numeroff.

And this is why it's a losing battle to try to clean up around here.