Colfax Public Library Lego® Club inspires young builders

 By LeAnn R. Ralph 

COLFAX — Even though Legos® were invented 85 years ago in 1932, the colorful plastic building blocks still have the power to spark creativity in youngsters and hold their interest for quite a long time. 

Consider the Lego® Club at the Colfax Public Library. 

The Lego® Club meets on the second and fourth Thursday of the month after school. 

The Colfax Messenger visited the library January 26 to see what the Lego® Club is all about. 

Jolene Albricht, the Colfax Public Library’s children’s librarian, is in charge of the Lego® Club. 

The challenge for January 26 was to build a maze with Legos®. 

“They create the maze, and then they have to put the marble in it and hold it, and it can’t fall out. Then they have to tip it, and the marble has to work its way all the way around and it has to land back in the cup,” Albricht explained. 

On the day the Colfax Messenger visited the library for Lego® Club, the participants were Charlie Charbonneau, age 9; Ben Charbonneau, age 5; Liam Walley, age 6; and Porter Walley, age 3. 

The Lego® Club is intended for kids ages 4 to 10, but if an older sibling brings a younger sibling along, “that’s fine,” Albricht said. 

“They all have different levels of skills, and they come at the challenges in different ways,” she said. 

“What’s so cute is they always have to tell a story after they have made their Lego® creation. There is always a story behind it. Like if they build a little jail — this guy was a pirate and now he’s in jail, and he has to stay there,” Albricht said. 

“They don’t like it when they have to take their creation apart. That’s the bad thing. So sometimes we display them and leave them out on the table for a while so people can see them,” she said. 

The previous Lego® challenge was a zip line. 

“One of our patrons donated some weed whip (line), and it worked perfectly. I tied it from a hook down to the bin of the board books because I could move it and make it taut. Then they built their creation and watched it slide down,” Albricht said. 

“She did a boat one time. Everybody had to make a floatable creation. She had a tub of water, and they could watch it float,” said Lisa Bragg-Hurlburt, director of the Colfax Public Library. 

“The kids loved that,” she added.

“But we had wet Legos® for two days,” Albricht recalled. 

“The kids really like the challenges,” Hurlburt said. 

“On the zip line, they had to figure out the perfect weight distribution. If it was too heavy, it stuck at the top. And if they didn’t leave enough slack space (where the Legos® were snapped together), it wouldn’t slide down,” Albricht said. 

“The day of the water, we had it on this table. Next time I’m bringing a big beach towel,” she said. 

“It was so cute. (One Lego® Club member) was taking little pieces and testing them all to see if they could float individually. He said, ‘if I put these together, then they will float.’ It wasn’t always the case. But it was a good theory,” Albricht said. 

“It really doesn’t matter what the age is. They all come up with something unique,” she said. 

Future engineers 

There can be no doubt that the challenges Albricht presents for the Lego® Club participants sparks creativity and encourages critical thinking skills. 

Charlie Charbonneau, for example, has the tendencies of a future engineer. His maze was built on multiple levels involving steps for the marble to travel down to the main level, and his maze was designed for not one marble, but two marbles. 

When Charlie demonstrated his maze, it worked perfectly, with each of the marbles traveling through the maze at the same time and exiting simultaneously. 

Lego® donations 

The Colfax Public Library’s Lego® collection came from a pooling of funds received from Agnes Stalson (some readers will remember her as “Swede”), another donor who wishes to remain anonymous, and grants given by Bremer Bank, Dairy State Bank, Kiwanis and Kyle’s Market, Hurlburt said. 

“Jolene Albricht did the fund raising work by filling out grant applications and talking to people,” Hurlburt noted. 

For those who have not purchased Legos® recently, they can be pricey, Albricht said. 

In years past, Legos® were simple, brightly-colored building blocks that could be put together in a variety of ways. Today’s Legos® come with little action figures, buildings and other accessories centered around a theme, such as Star Wars™, the Lego® Batman Movie, Minecraft™, elves, Ghostbusters™, Ninjago™, DC Comics™ Super Heroes, and DC Super Hero Girls™. 

As an example of some of the prices, the Disney Castle is listed on the Lego® website at $349.99, and the Amusement Park Roller Coaster is listed at $99.99. 

“The kids change over time, and (the Lego® Club) has turned into a fun play group where kids use their imaginations and their communications skills,” Hurlburt said. 

Board games 

The Colfax Public Library also has a collection of board games that was acquired by a donation from Dunn Energy. 

Lisa Ludwig, who retired as director of the library in December of 2015, applied for the Dunn Energy grant. 

The board games and the Legos® were added to the library in 2014. 

Concerning the board games, “we have talked about having some targeted game nights with a specific age group of kids. Previously we had let it be free-form if the kids wanted to come and play. But what happened is each kid picked a different game, and we didn’t have enough collaboration. We are thinking a more targeted activity and focus on a game, and all the kids play the game together,” Hurlburt said.

The board games can be found throughout the library.

“They are at the bottom of the shelves. That’s something we always have available to the public,” Hurlburt said.

More books

Hurlburt said she wants the community to know the Colfax Public Library is always willing to accept donations.

“Just yesterday we had someone give us two boxes of really nice books and games and toys. We always accept donations like that. Some of the books were brand new,” Hurlburt said, noting that she plans to bring a portion of the books to the Resource Fair that will be held in the Colfax school district later this winter during parent-teacher conferences.

The library will have a table at the event, and Hurlburt said she plans on giving away some of the books. 

“The main thing is — we want people reading. Kids. Adults. Everyone,” Hurlburt said.

“Since we put the games out, we’ve noticed moms and kids playing the games together,” Albricht said.

“We have tweens and teenaged kids sit in the back and play the games too. They have to read the instructions to figure out how to play the game. We make sure the instructions stay with the game. They are reading. They are taking turns. They are following rules,” Hurlburt said.

Hurlburt has been known to sit at the children’s table and play Uno, too, “with all of these little kids,” Albricht said.

“Kids like to have someone play with them. We, as adults, sometimes forget how fun it is to just sit and play cards. Things we used to do years ago,” Hurlburt said.

“Of all the gifts my grandson got, he got checkers, and all he wants to do is play checkers. I can handle that. He wants to play checkers all the time,” Albricht said.

What is interesting is in this day and age of all kinds of technology advances and software application games for smartphones is that kids still like to play simple board games, she said.

The Lego® Group is a Danish family-owned company based in Denmark and is best known for the manufacture of their signature interlocking plastic blocks. 

The word Lego® is derived from the Danish words “leg godt,” meaning “play well.”

In 2015, the Lego® Group reportedly became the world’s largest toy company with sales amounting to more than $2 billion.

The Colfax Public Library’s Lego® Club will meet next February 14 and again February 28 at 3:30 p.m.