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Lego learning teaches kids mechanical concepts

Staff photos by Gage Cureton A group of boys examine a Lego drawbridge they built during a Lego Design community education class at Washington Learning Center Tuesday. Using step-by-step guides, kids worked together to build miniaturized structures or simple machines.

NEW ULM — Levers and pulleys and gears — oh my.

Children ages six through 12 worked with Legos to build cranes, bridges and conveyor belts in a New Ulm Community Education class hosted by Sheila Rahn at Washington Learning Center Tuesday.

Rahn, of Bee Smart Learning, said she travels to community education programs in the surrounding area where she teaches kids basic science and math concepts through working with materials from the Lego Educational Division. Using step-by-step guides, kids work together to build miniaturized structures and simple machines.

“Science and math terms,” Rahn said. “Gears, pulleys and levers. They learn so much that they can take with them in life and I think the most important thing is just hands-on work in a group.”

According to Lego Education’s website, working with Legos to create simple machines such as gear and lever systems can teach kids to develop an understanding of how parts work together. It can also teach spatial thinking and build collaboration and communication skills as they share their learning processes with peers.

Rahn, an online teacher at Minnesota Connections Academy, said kids can take what they’ve learned from the class into their schools and classrooms when they get older.

One of the most popular machines the kids can build is a race car that uses a small motor to propel itself, Rahn said. Lego also has other educational products that expand into computer programming. She said she hopes Lego can expand its product line into simpler products for younger kids.

“I’m hoping Lego comes out with something that’s wireless,” Rahn said. “They have the [Lego] robotics kits where you can run them all with Ipads, but that’s for a little older clientele and I find that I attract the younger ones.”

Rahn said the goal of her class isn’t meant to be strictly just a work or school learning experience. She said she wants kids to have fun first, and then hopefully take what they learned in the class back into their lives and schools.

“We don’t use the ‘L’ word,” she said. “We’re not learning. We’re just having fun.”

Rahn’s Lego Design class continues 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday at Washington Learning Center.

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