I think everyone should seriously consider hosting a Lego Club at the library. Here's how we operate ours.
The Supplies. Most of our Legos have been purchased through grants from our Friends of the Library (Friends--We love you! Thank you for your support!!). We've made three big purchases since my branch began offering a Lego Club a few years ago; we've probably spent between $500 and $750 on Legos at this point. I would argue that you can start a Lego Club with $250-$300 for purchasing your initial supplies. Some things to keep in mind in purchasing your Legos:
- Do purchase a good number of baseplates; lots of kids prefer to build on these foundations rather than just start free-form building.
- Do make sure you have lots of Lego people, as one or two of your frequent program attendees will spend most of their building time hunting and hoarding the figures.
- Don't worry about buying a "correct" proportion of the new pink Legos "for girls." I know lots of people have lots of thoughts about these frill-ified pieces, but I don't want to get into that here. The only thing that is worth your consideration in purchasing your Legos is that all of your blocks will get jumbled together, and their colors will largely not matter.
- Do get some containers to hold the Legos during the program. Whether these containers are the ones the Legos come with or are generic plastic containers doesn't matter--any containers will keep hundreds of little pieces from ending up on your program room floor.
We've also added to our collection through donations of used Legos--parents and grandparents looking to clean out the former playspaces of their grown kids are often happy to know that those Legos they spent so much money on will go to a good home. My advice if you do decide to accept used Legos: be prepared with a strategy to clean them. Dust gets into all of those little crevices.
The Audience. Our monthly Lego Club is open to all school-age children and their siblings. That is to say that our target audience is K through 5, but we recognize that some younger siblings are going to want to tag along. That's fine with us. I know of plenty of libraries that actually split their Lego kiddos into two separate sessions, K-2 and 3-5. This model doesn't really work for us; it creates problems for families with kids in both age ranges, and it limits the breadth of interaction and collaboration during the programs. Thus we have one all-ages session and expect to have a full room. We get a good balance between boys and girls in attendance. Also, you will have plenty of caregivers attending with their kids, especially dads. The only time I've ever seen more dads engaged in a library program was during our Jedi Academy.
The Scheduling Logistics. We host our program on the last Monday of the month. We find that we have outstandingly regular attendance at this time, as the week hasn't gotten too busy yet and no one feels too worn out by the week that early on. We usually host the Lego Club from 6 to 7 p.m. on those Mondays to allow kids from all sorts of families to attend. We have two exceptions to that consistent time slot: during winter break, when we offer the program at 2 p.m. because of the plethora of evening holiday commitments; and during the summer, when we offer both a 2 p.m. and a 6 p.m. session to accommodate our larger seasonal audience. The consistency really works--kids know exactly when Lego Club will happen, and they anxiously await it.
The Program Room. I like to provide plenty of opportunities for collaboration in our Lego Club programs, so I set up two long tables and have plenty of chairs surrounding each (usually 15-20 chairs per table). There is plenty of room for kids to move around to search other builders' buckets for a specific piece they need, and there is also space for both collaboration and individual focus.
The Program Format. Every Lego Club has a theme, and children are encouraged to build a creation based on that theme. (Note: If they want to ignore the theme and do their own thing, that's fine, too. Support creativity!). Recent themes at my Lego Clubs have included Robots, Mad Scientist, and It Came From Outer Space! I've found that kids look forward to the grand unveiling of the month's theme--which is really just me announcing the theme in a silly voice.
Our hour-long program breaks down roughly into four segments:
- 6:00-6:05 -- Kids and caregivers come into the room, grab a baseplate if they want, and find a seat at one of our tables. I announce the theme for the evening.
- 6:05-6:50 -- Free building time. During this time, kids build and I mill about the room talking to kids, seeking out specific building pieces someone has requested, and just having positive, friendly interactions with everyone. I love asking about what the kids are building--even the youngest ones are very deliberate about how they make their creations. As we near the end of our free building time, I encourage kids to write the names of their creations on blank notecards, as well as their names. We use these cards in our displays.
- 6:50-6:58ish -- We "tour" the evening's creations. Each child has the opportunity to talk about what he/she created; some love to share their work, others shyly just repeat the evening's theme and then hide behind their caregivers.
- 6:58-7:00 -- Cleaning up the building area. I enlist the help of all Lego Club participants in checking the floor for errant Lego blocks, and they help get all of the unused pieces into our tubs. As kids leave the program, I always remind them to come see their creations on display in the library before the next meeting of the Lego Club. I also encourage them to check out a book on the evenings theme; we always have a table of such books available by the program room door.
|Kids' creations on display in the library.|
The Display. After years of tearing kids' creations apart at the end of each Lego Club, we asked our Friends of the Library group to grant us some funds to buy some display cases in which we could house children's work between programs. We purchased eight basketball-size display units, and for the time being that is sufficient to house at least a portion of each child's creation each month. Kids love seeing their work when they come to the library, and having Lego creations on display has generated tons of interest in the program among kids and families who hadn't known about it. If you have space, I highly recommend displaying your Lego Club creations in the library. Even if you can't invest in displays, find a shelf out of reach of toddlers and stick those creations up there. It really helps kids develop pride in their work as well as a sense of ownership in the library.
That's it. That's how we engage 30+ kids in extremely fun programming that helps develop STEAM skills every month. Once you get your supplies and get into a rhythm, it's a program that requires minimal prep and practically runs itself. Yet for how simple it can be for staff, it has a remarkably positive impact on kids. Lego Club is a solid investment in programming and intellectual engagement.
Do you have questions about how we run Lego Club at my library? What about comments on how you run a similar program in your neck of the woods? Sound off in the comments!