As I set about looking for models to supplement museum program activities, the idea of using LEGO came to me. I didn’t have to go far to bring it to mind as half finished pieces pop up around my house on a regular basis. My spouse is a keen builder and I have several kits under my belt.
As engaging as most of the LEGO themes are, they do not impart the sense of accuracy that one would require in museum-based programming. Take for example the bazooka toting theropod wrangler in the latest Dinosaur series.
photo source : LEGO.ca
But the draw of kids to LEGO is a strong one. Those coloured little bricks captivate them. And I have seen shy children, initially apprehensive at joining museum activities, connect immediately when a LEGO model is in view.
For the record, I am not talking about the activity of LEGO construction at this point (although I have seen this done with pyramid building with great success). Rather, I am discussing here the use of already constructed LEGO models as a featured talking point in theme programming.
For a recent Ancient Egypt program, I used the central portion of the Ramses Pyramid game to represent the Step Pyramid of Djoser – the first stone pyramid ever constructed.
And for the Medieval Europe event, the LEGO Kingdom’s Blacksmith Attack will be used to illustrate the blacksmith’s forge and armour construction. It has a movable waterwheel and anvil.
The premise of this product is this scenario (taken from LEGO promotion) :
“Help! The village is under attack and the evil Dragon Knight is trying to take weapons from the blacksmith’s workshop. Can the brave blacksmith stop him from stealing them?”
Of course, arm to arm combat between blacksmith and knight is not the type of learning situation we want to incorporate in our event. So we will edit out the ‘attack’ mode of the model and promote the close relationship there was between a blacksmith and a knight. After all, it could take up to one year to create a suit of armour, many fittings to tailor it to the individual and a whack of money to pay for it. That’s a more compelling story.
So should you use LEGO?
I would recommend it. Here’s how.
Take a look at all the products and see if there is enough in each kit to be able to use as a model to complement your theme.
- Build the model as the kit recommends then take a good look at it in its 3D format. You may see it differently from what you imagined from the box photo. (note : some LEGO stores have pre-built models on display and some images on the website can be seen from several views)
- Edit. Take away any extraneous parts of the model or game, leaving only what clearly supports your program theme.
- Consider gluing some of the smaller pieces together so they do not walk away during your program. However, having some small parts that move or come open (eg. taking the top off the pyramid to look inside) can add to the interaction.
Have fun with LEGO. It’s a crowd-pleaser.