Tag Archives: Lego®

The Brick Chronicles :: Lego® Crane

As the kids get older, they have more outside interests. They also have more at-home responsibilities. This has meant less free time to relax and build freely with LEGO bricks. However, after seeing the Art of the Brick, my kids have been inspired to work with their Legos®. Their rooms have been flooded with bricks and there has been some yelling as we, the parents, have stepped on them. Otherwise, let the building commence!

a picture of a boat and a cargo crane made out of lego bricks. A lego crane

Lego® crane made by R, age 11. The boat was pre-built, but he created everything else.

I’m not sure I will be restarting the Brick Chronicles series, but you can check out our past posts. Some of my favorites include: Ode to Crash Course, Mini Lego Cruise Ship, Articulated Lego Truck, Hinged Box, EV3 Conveyor Belt, Mini Lego Microscope, and the Feeder Machine.

Happy building!

an upclose picture of a lego crane made out of lego bricks

Visiting the Art of the Brick

Last weekend, my family and I met up with friends (and more family) to see the “Art of the Brick.” This free show, held in Tampa, displayed a number of pieces by artist, Nathan Sawaya.  The catch? All of the art was constructed with LEGO bricks.

A picture of a LEGO replica of part of the Bayeux Tapestry, made by the brick artist.

Sawaya’s work included replicas of 2D art, as well as original 3D sculptures. This is part of the Bayeux Tapestry ( a personal favorite of mine).

LEGO Art – The Art of the Brick

I have seen pictures of his work, but it was quite amazing to see it in person. The sheer number of LEGOS required for each sculpture was astounding! Most ranged in the thousands.

Obviously, we have a love for LEGO in this family, but I found Sawaya’s introductory video inspiring. He declared that art is not optional. In a world where we focus more and more on academic subjects and social media, art is often dropped from the school curriculum or brushed aside for more money-making ventures. Or worse, it’s turned into an academic subject itself — no creating required.

a picture of the sculpture of Degas Littel Dancer, made out of LEGOS by artist Nathan Sawaya

What if high school students had to collaborate (in math or science class) to make this? After learning about Degas, of course.

Well, art isn’t going to feed you.

I understand. We need people to clean up after ourselves. We need doctors and researchers. We need teachers. We even need a few lawyers to protect people, but I would argue that suing someone doesn’t adequately feed one, either. I am satisfied with my paid job, but I must create beautiful things.

What would happen if we, as a society, figured out our bare necessities (healthy food, safe shelter, attractive sustainable clothing, books/knowledge, and creative hobby pursuits) and eliminated the filler? Do I need to spend my time with people on Facebook? Twitter? Do I want to encourage the proliferation of social media for self-promotion’s sake?

All of us have wonderful things to contribute to our communities. Why is it so hard to do that well? The shy among us hope to get lucky in our creative careers, but unless we promote ourselves, we lose out. Imagine if we could wear the same thing for five days (all clean, of course) and spend the rest of our time making art (fully recyclable and sustainable art, of course).

I wish I was brave enough to wear the same thing everyday for a week. Of course, one could argue that fashion is a creative display of art. Ahem.

Creativity & Mental Health

There are some theories suggesting we aren’t creative enough and it’s hurting our mental health. We need to make things as young children (painting, drawing, building, playing music, reconstructing engines, etc.) to become productive adults. We need to lighten the social media burden. I choose to do that with visual art. I make my own art and I encourage my kids to do the same. Their chosen medium has been LEGO bricks (see The Brick Chronicles). It makes my heart smile to see the connection they make with a fellow artist. Art does matter — and I encourage you to support it.

a picture of the statue of liberty made out of LEGO bricks

In June, we saw this LEGO sculpture at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History in Washington, DC. Check out this video on how it was constructed (not created, but actually put together).

 

 

Book Review – Edible Inventions

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I review books. It keeps my librarian skills sharp, and I love talking about  – and analyzing – books. These reviews cover science and art education books, for and about children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.

A picture of the book, Edible Inventions.

Edible Inventions is written by Kathy Ceceri (a former homeschool mom)! Pictured next to the book are C’s homemade “Juicy Gelatin Dots.”

Ages: Teachers, Parents, Teens, Kids (with help)
Ceceri, Kathy. Make: Edible Inventions : Cooking Hacks and Yummy Recipes You Can Build, Mix, Bake, and Grow. Maker Media, 2016.

Edible Inventions = Kitchen Science

Ceceri’s latest contribution to the maker movement is a strange cross between cookbook and science textbook.  It’s a useful resource for teachers, parents and curious kids.

That being said, the title put me off – just a little. I wouldn’t have willingly picked up a book on edible inventions. It sounded too much like a cookbook. At our house, we have some food intolerance issues, and an aversion to sugar overload, so we do a lot of cooking. The last thing I want is more time in the kitchen (or a book that doesn’t respect those choices). In fact, some of the projects she showcases are ones we’ve done in the past. For example, we’ve made our own edible inventions (homemade marshmallows ) and have been composting (and gardening) for years.

Unlike her other books, I was familiar with most of the information presented because I’ve been cooking from scratch for decades (as opposed to creating with robotic legos). Just ask my family about my early failures – they are legend!  Obviously, I wasn’t expecting “a cookbook” to knock my socks off. However, like most of her books, Ceceri caught my eye in the very first chapter. I skimmed the table of contents until I saw this project: “Make a Hydraulic LEGO 3D Food Printer.”  It was at that moment I realized book covers (and titles) can be deceiving. This is a science textbook disguised as a cookbook.

Lego 3D Food Printer

In fact, once my oldest son playfully wrestled the book away from me, the first page he found described the pancake bot. This real-life invention is the inspiration for the food printer project. I love the idea that we can replicate one without using (or damaging) our EV3 brick. As a teacher, I want a real-life connection between the “craft project” and the information I’m presenting. Thankfully, Ceceri understands this concept completely. Learning can be fun, but there needs to be a bridge between the real world and the scaled down project.

In our “learning at home” life, the kids pick and choose their science interests. For many years, my oldest son has been enamored with computers, so he has stuck with Lego robotics, Scratch programming and First Lego League. I have not formally taught them chemistry (nor do I intend to do so), but a fellow homeschool parent did teach a basic chemistry class through our homeschool co-op. Some of the projects in this book (i.e. baked foam meringue cookies and juicy gelatin dots) would have been great compliments to that class – especially when talking about liquids, gases and chemical reactions.

Science Cookbook

Although the Lego project caught my eye, it was my youngest son who requested that we make something together. Both boys enjoy cooking, but my youngest seems to enjoy it more. He picked out the gelatin dots project, and after a slight delay (we had to chill the oil overnight), we were off.

picture of Great Lakes gelatin container, Grapeseed oil and POM juice, required ingredients for a project from the book, Edible Inventions.

Everything was easy to find at the store or in our pantry.

This project was surprisingly easy to make. My youngest son recently turned eight, but he made (most of) the gelatin dots on his own. Once his older brother saw what was happening, he swept in and asked for a chance to create. There was enough gelatin to share, so everyone had a chance to make (and eat) some jello-like dots.

A picture of a boy using a medicine dropper to create gelatin fruit dots from the book, Edible Inventions.

C is concentrating on creating perfect-size dots. Ceceri recommends a picnic-style ketchup or mustard dispenser, but we had an old, unused medicine dropper that worked just fine.

If you are so inclined, Ceceri provides an additional chemistry project to accompany these gelatin dots. With grape juice dots and lemonade, you could take this project further and introduce acids and bases. I think it would have been neat to include some additional “academic” connections here, perhaps some PH paper? Since this was for my eight-year-old, we ignored all formal learning and went with hands-on experimenting.

Conclusion

All of Ceceri’s books are well-researched and provide project details, background information and real-life connections. They are fabulous additions to any resource library and they offer a great way to get more hands-on, educational projects into your home or classroom.

I received this book in exchange for my honest review. If you’d like to see my other (non-compensated) reviews of Make titles, check out Making Makers, Making Simple Robots, and Tinkering.

The Brick Chronicles – Lego Name Tag

The Brick Chronicles feature unique creations made with Lego® bricks. Hopefully you, and the children in your life, will find them as inspiring as I do!

pic of lego nametag - says JOE

Made by Liz, for her husband Joe. Sadly, he didn’t even wear it!

I came up with this Lego name tag while brainstorming some Lego challenges for last month’s summer expo. I was trying to find something fun, but unique, that would be easy for kids to make.

I had some pin backings on hand (from our hand-sewn pin project), and there’s always a hot glue gun in arm’s reach. A quick Lego build combined with a little hot glue, and you have an instant name tag. Thankfully, the hot glue gun was low temp so it didn’t melt the Lego base.

pic of back of lego name tag

One of my favorite things about hot glue is how easily it will come off of certain surfaces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
You don’t need to be limited to just name tags. You could have students use their initials, especially if their name is too long to fit. You could design an art pin that displays the concept of contrast or encompasses 3-D structures. The possibilities are endless. And, when you are done, pull off the hot glue and return the legos to the bin.

Brick Chronicles – An Ode to Crash Course

The Brick Chronicles feature unique creations made with Lego® bricks. Hopefully you, and the children in your life, will find them as inspiring as I do!

crash-course-set-in-legos

Made by R, age 10. After an epic morning of lego building, he emerged with this ‘Crash Course’ set.

Crash Course – Made with Legos

My ten-year-old has been watching Crash Course videos for a couple of years. He found them through Kahn Academy and introduced the entire family to John Green’s hilarious renditions of history. Not only is John Green funny, but these videos are highly educational and reinforce the short chapter lessons we are already reading about in our history curriculum, Story of the World.

I don’t assign these videos. I don’t have to. The kids (and I) love the format, and I think they enjoy them because they are vaguely aware of the people and events he showcases. Lately, I am being asked (more and more) if they can watch a crash course video during their down time. Quite often, I am sitting there watching with them. They are that good.

crash-course-in-legos

As my children like to say, “Mr. Green! Mr. Green!”

Language Alert for Crash Course

Depending on how old your children are (and how sensitive you are to language), parental supervision may be required. The videos are directed at teenagers and adults, so some “potty” language is to be expected. For my own family, I don’t worry too much, but my seven-year-old has also taken a liking to these videos. I like to keep an ear out while they watch, so we can discuss John’s language use, if and when such language comes up. It’s similar to Mike Rowe’s descriptions in the show, ‘Dirty Jobs.’ The content is engaging and has an appropriate delivery for adults, but you may need a little extra guidance with young ones.

Crash Course for Kids

That being said, there is a fabulous series called, Crash Course for Kids. I’ve used these short videos while teaching about the constellations. It’s a relatively new venture and at this point, the videos only cover science topics. Regardless, they are entertaining, fast-paced and provide another way to reinforce a particular topic.

crash-course-lego-yellow-chair

A close-up of the fireplace – and yellow chair – where John reads his “open letter.”

So, thank you, Crash Course staff, we appreciate all that you do!

Brick Chronicles – Lego Island

The Brick Chronicles feature unique creations made with Lego® bricks. Hopefully you, and the children in your life, will find them as inspiring as I do!

Picture of a lego island - made out of legos

Made by R, age 10 and C, age 7.

This Lego island is brought to you by an inspiration in model trains. Yes, you read that right – model trains! This Lego creation came about because my sons picked up some cheap (and old) model railroading magazines from the Friends of the Library sale last month. They have been enthralled with the tiny model towns and intricate set designs.

I’ve suggested that they should try and create such scenery with the materials the already have, so there has been a lot of brainstorming and prototyping. In fact, there is a current experiment involving dirt, a popsicle stick and some paint. All in an attempt to recreate the texture of buildings.  Thankfully for my sake, there haven’t been too many of such experiments. But, there has been a lot of lego building. And, that’s something I can support!

Lego Island

a picture of a 5 x 5 lego island, made from legos

One of these first projects where they actually shared the duties equally (usually it’s the oldest who does most of the work).

 

Brick Chronicles – Lego Duck

The Brick Chronicles feature unique creations made with Lego® bricks. Hopefully you, and the children in your life, will find them as inspiring as I do!

a duck made from legos

Lego Duck, made by one of the kids who stopped by our booth.

Lego Duck

We had a variety of ‘Lego Challenges’ on hand for last weekend’s Summer Camp Expo. One of those challenges happened to ask, “can you build a duck?” I can’t say it was as popular as the “can you build a food truck” challenge (those wheels have quite the appeal), but I was intrigued by the kids who tackled a somewhat difficult challenge.

It was interesting to observe the different strategies. Some kids used all of the Lego pieces that were in the tray, while others used as few pieces as possible. Either way, we had students who revisited our booth and couldn’t stay away! Legos have quite the draw and we loved seeing all of the unique creations. Sadly, these were the only two ducks that I captured on camera. I’m already looking forward to seeing what everyone makes at next year’s summer camp expo.

A picture of a lego duck made out of legos.

This lego duck was made by another summer camp expo participant.

 

Brick Chronicles :: Lego Railroad Handcart

The Brick Chronicles feature unique creations made with Lego® bricks. Hopefully you, and the children in your life, will find them as inspiring as I do!

Picture of a mini lego railroad handcart, made of legos

Made by C, age 6

Lego Railroad Handcart

This past week, the boys were inspired by trains and there was much making and recreating with Legos®. My youngest son excitedly came running into my room saying, “look what I made, Mom!”

Lots of fun and lots of creativity happening with these Legos®. Best toy ever.

A picture of a mini railroad handcart made from legos

Although it doesn’t function completely on its own, the concept is there. Not bad for a six-year-old.

The Brick Chronicles – Lego Vaccine

The Brick Chronicles feature unique creations made with Lego® bricks. Hopefully you, and the children in your life, will find them as inspiring as I do!

A picture of a lego vaccine - a "needle" made from legos

Made by R, age 10.

My kids call this their “Lego shot.” I think that’s much nicer than calling it their Lego hypodermic needle. Don’t you think? Of course, they also run around chasing each other trying to give one other a shot. Hopefully, that makes the real vaccines seem less scary. At least that’s theory I’m going with.

I know. I know. It is an odd thing for me to feature, but it does have some ingenious engineering. When you press down on the “trigger” the tip actually breaks off. You can reattach it, of course, but you have to find it first. Thus, giving your brother some time to get away…

A picture of a lego vaccine

No animals (or people) were hurt in the making of this toy. 🙂

 

The Brick Chronicles :: Lego Addition Problems

The Brick Chronicles feature unique creations made with Lego® bricks. Hopefully you, and the children in your life, will find them as inspiring as I do!

Picture of lego addition problem 10=8+2

Lego addition problem made by C, age 6.

A few mornings ago, I was working with A to reinforce multiplication facts and was introducing the concept of area, while using graph paper and legos. We had the legos out and that drew the attention of the other two boys. Since C is only six, he gets a pass when it comes to a lot of formal learning…especially now that he is reading chapter books. I tend to let him have a lot more leeway with the type of work that he does. So, when he started playing with the legos, I told him that he had to do something with math. Otherwise, he had free reign. I was envisioning him adding the dots to make numbers, but then he busted out the above addition problem.

“It’s backwards,” my husband whispers to me. Yes and no. He is actually demonstrating a great way of re-writing the problem…something many elementary teachers will recognize.  Kids need to become comfortable with the quantities and learn to play with the numbers and numerals – not just memorize the way it’s set up in their math book. He placed the equal sign on the left, but the problem was correct : 8 + 2 = 10.

Now, I just need to figure out how to make ALL math lessons this intuitive and self-directed. I’m working on it.

And, the answer makes 10.

And, the answer makes 10.