March 10, 2014

Block by block

Flora Lego club aims to stimulate children's creativity

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — FLORA — A new housing development was underway in Flora last week.

One lot had a graveyard with smiling skeletons popping out of the ground. A tree house went up in another part of the neighborhood.

Inside one structure, musket-wielding soldiers garrisoned themselves from the wizards and knights outside. At another, a police chase ended with a chef and a baker falling through the roof.

It was the first session of the Flora-Monroe Township Public Library Lego Club. After two snow delays, the Program Room of the library was able to open up with several tables lined with base plates and large tubs of bricks in their centers.

Twelve kids spent the hour at their respective workstations, the sound of hands rustling through the brick bins meshing with giddy expressions of their exploits to parents and fellow builders.

The club was made possible through a grant from the Carroll County Community Foundation after a focus group identified a need for more creative outlets at the library and in the community.

The grant application praises Lego for its physical, imaginative and mechanical qualities that increase attention span, memory, creativity, language and vocabulary skills all in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. It goes on to cite a study from the journal “Science and Children,” which states playing with hands-on manipulative toys like Legos increases student understanding in the classroom.

“It seemed like a natural fit for this need that had been identified,” said Melissa Bishop, director of the library.

Bishop said every session of the club will revolve around a different theme. Tuesday’s was houses and was complemented by a slideshow of Lego homes and a display of children’s books about houses and Legos.

Danny Butcher, 13, attended the session. His house consisted of a fortress occupied by colonial soldiers seeking shelter from wizards and medieval soldiers in what he called a “time travel mix-up.”

In his free time, Danny makes stop-action Lego movies with an app on his iPad. He adds sounds and special effects to the clips, which are about a minute long and like his project for the Lego club, involve characters engaged in some kind of battle.

“You take a bunch of pictures, pet them together and you got a movie,” Butcher said.

Loren Meharry didn’t set out with a plan in mind as she carefully clasped the the bricks atop her base plate, opting instead to see where her imagination would take her. The 10-year-old is an avid fan of the blocks, saying she likes them because “you get to build whatever you want.”

She went on to describe the adobe house she built recently for a school project that spanned several feet wide and about a foot high, complete with ladders and landscaping.

Aimee Burns brought her kids, 10-year-old Abigail, 8-year-old Toby and 5-year-old Bethany. They all play with Legos at home, from “Lord of the Rings”-themed sets to those celebrating “Star Wars.” Toby is currently using the blocks as part of a 4-H project.

“With all the technology in our world today,” Burns said, “I like to see them doing things like this and being creative.”

Ryan Duff attended with his 4-year-old son, Riley.

“It’s probably the only toy he plays with,” Duff said as he watched Riley position a tiny Lego figurine on his scene.

Duff went on to describe how Riley’s competence with Legos has developed over the years to the point where he can locate desired pieces on his own and build things without help.

At the end of the session, the kids took turns describing their projects. A few were selected to spend the month on display in the library. The rest were disassembled to piles of bricks that were placed back inside the bins, where they wait to take on the shapes of next month’s theme.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or Follow him: @PharosMAK

If you go: WHAT: Flora-Monroe Township Public Library Lego Club WHEN: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. first Tuesday of every month WHERE: Program Room of the Flora-Monroe Township Public Library, 109 N. Center St. in Flora Keep up with schedule changes on the Lego club's blog on the library's website at and the library's Facebook page.