Lego + learning = good times
by Lisha Van Nieuwenhove
What would your kids say if they knew that the Lego they were playing with was E-D-U-C-A-T-I-O-N-A-L? They likely wouldn't care, as the multi-coloured little pieces of plastic that are built into entire mini-universes are the staple of many a childhood (and the bane of many a parent's foot in a darkened room!) Some Lego, however, has a special purpose, and that is to be part of Bricks 4 Kidz,, a relatively new way of using Lego to teach children some of the fundamentals of science, technology, engineer and mathematics (S.T.E.M.-based learning). And this learning while you play is coming to North Durham.
Jay Da Costa, a computer technician/website developer/semi-professional actor who currently lives in Beaverton with his family, recently started a Bricks 4 Kidz franchise that will cover all of North Durham, the Kawarthas and Lake Simcoe.
“I really love kids, and I was having a lot of fun volunteering at my daughter's school. I directed a play, helped with Scientist in the School, that sort of thing, and I just loved it. I was looking for something to do like this but more as a job, and I came across Bricks 4 Kidz,” explains Jay.
He got in touch with Bricks 4 Kidz, and after a lengthy vetting process, Jay travelled to Florida to train at the head office of the Creative Learning Corporation, which owns the Bricks 4 Kidz company. Now his home office has shelves that are filled with various kits of Lego in all shapes and sizes, all waiting to be built into fantastic little worlds that are going to teach their creators how things work. Jay hopes to unpack all these kits at a camp that he's holding at the Uxbridge Legion beginning August 11. There will be two themes to these Lego camps - one will be based on the popular video game Minecraft, and the other will be an amusement park. The kits being used at this camp are specially designed for use by 6 - 12 year olds, and include motors, pullies, robotics - real-live working parts! Campers can either come in the morning and help build a 3D Minecraft space, the afternoon to build an amusement park (that will have working rides, etc.), or stay all day and help build both. There will also be opportunities for freeplay with the Lego, as well as crafts.
“I'm so excited about this,” says Jay. “I love Lego myself, and I get to play with it, and kids, all day! It doesn't get any better,” he laughs.
Bricks 4 Kidz isn't just a camp activity. Some of the kits (which are real Lego but are not like the kits you buy in retail stores) are geared toward older students - Jay gives the example of the DNA kit. Students in school can learn all about DNA in a traditional way, and then are given the opportunity to build a double helix out of Lego. At the highest levels there are computer programs that enable students to use their Lego in stop-motion animation.
Jay hopes to take Bricks 4 Kidz into many schools, where it can be used either in class or as part of an after school program. There is already a Bricks 4 Kidz franchise in York Region, and Jay says that it has been approved for use in several schools there. He hopes to have the same happen in his new “territory”. He also says Bricks 4 Kidz makes a sensational themed birthday party activity.
Bricks 4 Kidz has been voted the number one kid's enrichment franchise in the world, and can be found as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, India and Spain, just to name a few.
Bricks 4 Kidz® North Durham, Lake Simcoe and the Kawarthas will be offering summer camps in Uxbridge on August 11 - 15 at the Uxbridge Legion. For more information on these and other Bricks 4 Kidz programs, or to register for camp sessions, please visit www.Bricks4Kidz.com/382, or contact Jay Da Costa at email@example.com.
The Nature Nut
|with Nancy Melcher
Important Cattail Research Underway In Countryside Preserve - Photos by Nancy Melcher.
Cattail plants in the Countryside Preserve pond have been sporting some fancy hats. It's not a new art installation, nor is it the work of mischievous youth with too much spare time on their hands. This is Trent University student Sara Pieper's Ph. D. research project into cattails, both native (broad-leaved) and introduced (narrow-leaved) species, along with cross-pollinated hybrids. The Township of Uxbridge and the Trails Committee support Pieper's work.
Her findings will provide insights on how the hybrids could affect natural wetlands. Hybrid cattails are invasive and aggressive plants. They can dominate a wetland, squeezing out the native broad-leaved cattails. Pieper hopes her research will help to identify which wetlands are at risk of hybridization, and slow the creation of hybrid cattails.
Her focus is on how hybridization occurs, so she's studying the movement of pollen of both broad-leaved and narrow-leaved cattails in natural wetlands. Most wetlands in this part of Ontario have hybrids of the two species. Finding a pond with only one species is important to eliminate the potential for cross-pollination. It's also important that the study area be far enough away from other cattails for the same reason.
Pieper chose to study the cattails in the small pond near Post 4 because it has only narrow-leaved cattails. It's also physically isolated from other cattails in the area. (So how did the cattails get there in the first place? That's a question for another study!) She's removed pollen from some plants, brought other potted cattail plants into the pond for pollination purposes, and has put bags over other cattail flowers to have controls. She will learn how much pollen reaches the remaining exposed flowers at different distances and directions from the potted cattails.
Pieper's research will run until the end of this month. Many walkers in the Preserve have asked her about what she's doing when she's working in the pond. Others have asked the Nature Nut to investigate the paper bags. All the potted plants and equipment will be removed at the completion of the study later this summer.