SUMMERSIDE — Cyrus Twiss and Hunter MacDonald closely study the architectural plans as if they were seasoned engineers.
They discuss their game plan — what to do next, what piece to use and how to go about putting it all together.
The two boys are building with Lego.
“We hope it works,” six-year-old Cyrus said of their project. “
It’s a sunny summer morning as a group of youngsters gather in a classroom at the Summerside Holland College campus, learning much more than just how to stack the colorful plastic blocks into rudimentary houses and figures.
They’re learning the science and engineering behind Lego, thanks to instructors at the Bricks 4 Kids Summer Camp.
On this particular morning, it’s all about superheroes — a favourite with the all-boy group mp.
They’re working on a mechanical arm of sorts — Hulk’s arm, in fact — which, once complete, will spring forward into action simply by squeezing a small lever.
The finished product has five-year-old Reid MacDonald excited.
He quickly crouches to his knees in front of four tiny walls made out of Lego. He hopes to find out how quickly his Hulk arm can do what the superhero does best — smash.
The walls tumble one by one with each pull of the lever, much to Reid’s delight.
“Hey Jake, look at this,” he yells over to his partner, Jake Johnson.
It’s reactions like Reid’s that Amber Jadis, the owner of P.E.I.’s Bricks 4 Kids franchise, hopes to see at each camp.
“The first time they turn on one of the motorized models is the best because their eyes just light up when they see it work,” said Jadis. “A lot of kids have Lego at home but they don’t necessarily have motors. They get pretty excited when they seem them working in that way.”
Earlier this year, she opened her franchise, and since has been travelling across the Island holding after-school programs and, now, summer camps.
It’s the second Lego summer camp in Summerside. The afternoon sessions focus on the popular video game, Minecraft.
The Lego Movie’s release has renewed interest in the childhood staple, prompting Jadis, a mother of two and former electrical engineer, to switch gears in her career.
“Lego has been around forever but it has sort of had a revival recently,” said Jadis. “Things in the construction industry got slow and I was sort of looking for other opportunities and wanted to do other things.”
Now, she’s in a different construction business.
Bricks 4 Kids currently has more than 600 franchises in 26 countries.
Its camps and programs focus on teaching youngsters science, engineering and, most importantly, problem solving.
“From the parents’ perspective, they recognize it as an educational tool,” said Jadis. “We have been getting a lot of kids who are on the autism spectrum and with ADHA and different types of learning challenges. They may not do well in a traditional learning environment but they love Lego.
While still educational, this week’s summer camp is meant to be fun, with the youngsters learning how to make moving Lego sets and even using their masterpieces in stop-motion animation Lego movies of their own.
“We have a lot of fun,” said Jadis. “
The 13-year-old has been building with Lego for as long as he can remember.
“I like how there are no limits to Lego,” said Jake. “You can build whatever you want. Everything connects. There is literally no limit to it.”
At home, he’s let his imagination run wild, using Lego sets together to come up with new and imaginative creations.
“One time I made a Justice League headquarters, but my favourite one I made was a bank. It had an ATM machine, a money drop-off slot that had a cash register stand,” he said. “The bank used to be the Daily Bugle for Spiderman but now it is just a regular bank. It actually turned out great. It was built out of Jabba the Hutt’s palace, Harry Potter’s castle and the Daily Bugle.”
Jake’s next project is to build a mini Springfield, the fictional home of The Simpsons.
It’s that type of imagination and creativity Jadis hopes to spark in the youngsters who take part in her camps and after-school programs.
“The things that these kids build with Lego, it blows me away,” she added. “If I sit down in front of a bag of Lego, I might build a car or something. But these guys build everything.”
And the youngsters only get more creative once the instructions are set aside.
“With these kits, there are 200 different projects that can be built from it,” she added. “My favourite part is when the kids get to incorporate their own creativity. It’s just amazing the things they do on their own.”
The Bricks 4 Kids Summer Camp continues this week, with spaces still available.
For more information, visit bricks4kids.com and search P.E.I.