LEGO Week at Homer Public Library, by Claudia Haines

Last week was LEGO week at our library! The popular, iconic building bricks have many fans of all ages in Homer. To celebrate the interest and skills of our community builders, we held our 4th Annual LEGO Contest and included a building session in our weekly summer series of Maker Mondays for kids and teens.

LEGO® Contest

The LEGO Contest for ages 18 and under has the same basic format each year, but we tie the contest to our summer reading program by incorporating an element of the program’s theme. For example, this year our theme was Fizz, Boom, READ and we focused on all aspects of science, so the contest had two categories for each age group: open and new species. The open category included the varied interests and abilities of builders, and the new species category gave some kids and teens a starting point for designing their entry or pushed them to think beyond their usual building focus.

The contest is divided into three age groups. Prizes, donated by our Friends group, were awarded to 1st and 2nd place individuals and teams of two in each age group and category. Three community members volunteered to judge the entries, using this basic rubric, and the entries were displayed at the library for one week. We also let the public choose the People’s Choice Award with a ballot box at the library.

You can see this year’s 37 entries here:

Maker Monday: LEGO®

Each of the ten Maker Monday programs we offered this summer were designed to give kids and teens the chance to create, build, and make at the library. Each program was two hours long, giving the makers time to really explore the activity and concepts at hand, and was led by me or a community artist or expert. We featured programs on electricity, the forces of flight, making wood fired pizza, a sweater chop shop, 3-D printing, multimedia art, and of course, LEGO®. No registration was required for all but one of the programs, and an average of 35 makers attended. The series was designed for ages 8-18, but most of the makers were between the ages of 6 and 14. (The younger kids came to some of the programs like the Maker Monday LEGO®, with caregivers in tow, and we made it work as long as they were genuinely interested.)

Maker Monday: LEGO® was held the same week as the LEGO® Contest and was divided into two parts. The first half of the program was modeled after the LEGO® programs I offer periodically throughout the year. I provided the LEGO® bricks, figures, and other elements and then posed building challenges inspired or borrowed from the LEGO Quest Kids blog. I had the builders work on their own or as teams, depending on the challenge. Many libraries host successful LEGO® programs and their lots of resources online.
How to Host a LEGO® Club
LEGO® Day at the Library
Block Party: Legos in the Library
LEGO® Librarian Toolkit

After a snack break, the second half of the program was devoted to building a LEGO® story. I explained that we were going to make short videos using stop motion animation with LEGOs® and the LEGO® Movie Maker app. After I showed them the very short movie I made as a demo, I then introduced the concept of a story board and we talked about the elements of a story. (I won’t link to my demo, because as the makers all pointed out, it was really short and not very good. It’s always good to demo something that makes kids feel they can do better.)

I provided post-it notes for the movie makers to use as they designed their story in teams, but most kids didn’t use them. The building challenges warmed them up to building and most were natural storytellers when using LEGO®. If kids needed a starting point, I, or the summer teen volunteer helping me, worked with them until they were confidently moving ahead with their idea.

As makers were ready, they brought their story pieces to one of the simple movie making stations (table against a wall near good lighting). Every team or individual had a building plate on which to stage their story and then we used a couple of extra plates for the backdrop of the scenes. One maker and I built stands out of LEGO® for both my iPhone and the iPad we used for filming (we had two filming stations) to reduce the jiggle that happens with handheld filming. Here are a couple examples of the seven short movies that were made during the program.

Crashing by Jonathan (filmed with iPhone)

Black Knight by Colten (filmed with iPad)

After the program, I emailed the final products to kids or their families or posted a couple on my library’s YouTube channel. Many kids were instantly hooked on the idea of making simple movies with LEGO® and have since kept creating on their own. To me, that’s a sign of a successful program.

My review of the app (also published in the Alaska State Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums’ Friday Bulletin on 8/8/14):

LEGO® Movie Maker
iOS 5+ (iPhone, iPad, iTouch)
Ages 5+

The LEGO® Movie Maker app is a user-friendly introductory tool for kids and teens who want to use stop motion animation as a storytelling tool, but have little or no experience with video production. Captured still images are stitched together by the app to create a short video with the click of the save button. The app includes title screen templates and the ability to customize both the title and director name(s). It also offers several background music choices and the option to add music from the device’s music collection. There is no narration function so movie makers will rely on action or strategically placed text in the scene to tell the story. The app’s overall ease of use would make this an excellent addition to a LEGO program in which young builders write a story, create the necessary elements of the story, and film it.

Once the video is deemed finished, the final product can be downloaded to the device’s camera roll and then shared with family and friends through email or posted online. While the app’s developer intends for the videos to feature the extremely popular LEGO bricks, videos with any props or actors could be created. Technical notes: The app does not contain any online links or in-app marketing. Currently there is only a landscape option for the title screen, so the still images are best captured in landscape mode also to offer a smooth viewing experience.

Claudia Haines, Little eLit Curation Coordinator
Youth Services Librarian
Homer Public Library
Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

About Amy Koester

I'm a youth services librarian with a penchant for exciting ideas and engaging programs. It's a sure bet that if you talk to me about STEAM, whimsy, and trying new things, we'll be best friends forever.

Posted on August 6, 2014, in Apps and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: