Lego mania gaining steam

Toy teaches engineering, creativity, say enthusiasts

Jennifer Smith
Ralph Copley of the Denver Lego Users Group works on the giant interactive Lego city the group displayed at Bemis Library Aug. 2.
Jennifer Smith
This castle stands about 3 feet high and glows light purple, guarded by a flock of Unikitties (half unicorn, half kitty, or course).
Jennifer Smith
Kids have a blast with Legos during a class at Englewood Civic Center, with some learning snuck in.
Jennifer Smith
Abby Davis sits surrounded by the Lego land she helped create through her work with the Colorado Lego Users Group.
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Lego love is storming the country in light of the popularity of the recently released “Lego Movie,” but for some, it never left.

“It's all about imagination and dreaming about what you can do,” said Reed Yeager, who spends countless hours helping the Denver Lego Users Group, or DENLUG, build interactive Lego cities that they display publicly whenever they get the chance.

On Aug. 2, the group joined with the Colorado and Wyoming Lego Users Group to showcase their work at Bemis Library. It was so popular that library staff had to politely but firmly let visitors, reluctant to leave, know it was closing time.

“It's really cool,” said Ashley Baclawski, 9, as she checked out every detail. “It's cool how all the different themes are all together.”

To be sure, Star Wars heroes were hanging out with Unikitties (half cat, half unicorn). A running train encircled a helicopter that had crashed into a Chik-fil-a, just feet away from a spinning Ferris wheel. Cowboys, robots and the Incredible Hulk had invaded the airport, and knights of old and British sentries alike defended a glowing purple castle.

The event was just for the day, but there are other Lego displays in the library that will remain through August. Abby Davis of the Colorado/Wyoming group said collectively hundreds of hours went into building the city, and it would take about three hours to disassemble that evening.

“I didn't get into Legos until my husband introduced them to me about six years ago,” she said. “But he was so into it, and he was building some really neat things, that I found it really fascinating. I like all the possibilities.”

The week before, Lucas Brooks spent a week priming some potential future members for the groups. An instructor at Play-Well, he spent three hours each morning teaching a group of 5- to 7-year-olds — all boys, by coincidence — to find the lessons in Legos.

“Play-Well is teaching engineering, with the medium being Legos,” he said as he herded the kids, who didn't want to stop building long enough to get the room at Englewood Civic Center straightened up. “I liked Legos as a kid. I taught in the classroom for the past several years, and I was just ready for a change. I enjoy engaging with the kids, and this is the most effective tool I've worked with in education.”

Play-Well is actually named after the toy.

“Lego is an abbreviation of the two Danish words `leg godt,' meaning `play well,'” reads the Lego website. “It's our name and it's our ideal.”

Parents looking on said their kids loved the class.

“I had so much fun with them as a kid, and he's got Lego sets, so it seemed like a natural fit,” said Chris Johnson, father of 5-year-old Till. “I hope he'll take some more building skills away with him.”

Back at Bemis, Ashley's mom Kara said the “Lego Movie” has some other valuable lessons for kids, as well.

“It's about following instructions and then breaking past that and creating something unique,” she said.

It's a lesson voiced by Morgan Freeman as Vitruvius:

“Because the only thing anyone needs to be special is to believe that you can be. I know that sounds like a cat poster but it's true. Look at what you did when you believed you were special. You just need to believe it some more.”