A Letter to Parents Regarding our Mini Master Builder Lego Classes
Parents; We've had a HUGE response to our first round of summer classes last July & August. The encouragement of the community to expand and continue our program has been overwhelming. We're so excited to be working with multiple teachers, Lego professionals and creatives, to develop lesson plans and projects that will make for exciting ongoing classes for kids of all ages.
One of the biggest things that we quickly learned, is that Lego is a HUGELY popular medium for kids with various disabilities, be they physical or neurological differences, many children and adults with various challenges find Lego to be a fantastic distraction and a wonderful tool for creative expression and ongoing learning. We're THRILLED to learn that Lego is such a huge part of so many people's lives, and we want to do our best to produce programs that will be inclusive and available to anyone who wants to attend - however - making our programs accessible to all is going to take time, and there will be a learning curve. We hope that you'll have patience, and that you'll help with feedback, so that we can continue to improve our classes as we go.
Many GREAT questions have been asked of us by parents these first few weeks and we wanted to do our best to address those questions all in one place where everyone had the opportunity to see the answers. We want to continue to receive feedback so that we can continue to develop & improve our classes in ways that will work well and reach everyone.
If you don't see your question answered here - PLEASE feel free to CONTACT US and ask! You are also welcome to reach us by Text Message if you'd prefer!
Some Questions parents have asked us previously about students with special needs:
Question: Do you have specially trained staff or extra staff who would be able to provide extra assistance to my student?
Answer: No, we do not have any specially trained staff who have worked with kids with special needs. Some of our instructors are parents/guardians of kids with special needs themselves and are familiar with some aspects of working with kids with a variety of disabilities or different needs. This is one of the main reasons we have developed our Partnership classes - so that the person who is most familiar with your student and their specific individual needs will be present in order to assistant your child at every turn - you!
Question: Will parents be allowed to stay and assist their child during class?
Answer:Our Partnership / Co-Op classes are SPECIFICALY designed for parents to take part and participate as their student's partner during all of the activities. There may be times when we will pair up students and their parents with another partnership, to work in small teams as well. It is our hope that parents will be able to better assist and facilitate their students to work in small groups effectively.
We actively encourage parents to look at these classes as an activity for BOTH of you. This isn't a class where you will simply be expected to be present in case of any issues - this is a class in which you will be asked to actively take place in all of the builds, challenges and activities alongside your child.
We will do our best to get kids out of their shells, working together and getting to know each other - and we actively encourage you to use this time to get to know other parents as well!
Question: Do you or any of the instructors have any experience working with kids with special needs?
Answer:While some of our instructors do have teaching experience, or have worked with kids in various aspects (I have coached soccer for eight years, and was a sheriff's deputy who worked with troubled youth for most of my professional career before I retired) - in general, our instructors come into these classes without an official educational background. Our expertise is Lego, not early childhood education. We are doing our best to develop a curriculum that will be fun and engaging for both students and their parents to participate in.
This class has been planned with special needs students in mind - but of course, not all activities will be every participant's strong suit, which is totally okay! It's important that we motivate and encourage students to try their best, and to remind them that even if a specific activity isn't their cup of tea - next time we'll be own to something new and different. We want to do our best to be inclusive and we want to see all builders be happy and successful in our courses.
Children who are hard of hearing, or deaf. As we do not currently have staff who are able to communicate with sign language (though we are actively working on this), we encourage children who are unable to hear or understand spoken language, whose parents are able to translate instructions to their students, that our class may be perfect. Parents (or will not just st
The ability to handle some light competition without getting TOO competitive or TOO upset over not winning. (In many cases, the group or individual build challenges will compete with other builds in their class.)
The ability to follow basic instructions. (If they need a little extra help, extra explanation or written directions, we can work with that!)
They must be able to behave well without a parent or guardian present, as they'll be with us for two hours every week during class. (If your child has had regular behavioral issues during school, this specific summer class isn't going to be a good fit. We will go over the course rules during the first class. If a student isn't able to follow the rules after several reminders, they will be asked not to return to future classes. We don't want that to ever be the case, but we also want to offer a positive learning environment for all of our students. If you're concerned about this, please speak to us BEFORE registering your child.)
Kids signing up for this summer program should be Lego fans who have some build experience. They should have at least a basic knowledge of Lego parts, and should be competent at putting together sets without assistance.
They'll need to be able to work within strict timelines that we set forth before each challenge or project (sometimes they are quick activities that only last a few minutes, other times they will be working for most of the class time)- but students should be comfortable moving from one activity to the next, and be willing to stop one thing and move on to the next when the time is up. (If you know that your child struggles with stopping one activity (even if they aren't finished) to move on to the next thing - this is likely not going to be a great fit, because we do have limited time in class, and we'll be moving along at a reasonable, but steady pace.)
Lastly, we'll need the group's cooperation with some amount of "clean up" in between activities. Hopefully this class will encourage all students to get a little bit better at cleaning up after themselves as they finish activities!
Question: Are you able to accommodate a child with limited hearing?
Answer:The only parent involvement we are able to accommodate at this time, is the presence of a parent who knows ASL if your child is hearing impaired and needs a translator. If you think you'll be able to be present with your child for all classes, and are willing and able to help translate for your child, we welcome them to attend and participate. The translator can be a parent, guardian, older sibling or other person age 12+ who's willing to assist as an interpreter / translator.
Question: My child is on the Autism Spectrum and has trouble communicating with their peers. Do you think this class would be appropriate for them or do you think they would struggle to participate in the activities?
Answer:It's going to be important for kids in the 2022 Summer Program to have an ability to work and play well with others in their age group (classes and groups will be co-ed). We will encourage the more shy & quiet kids to be included, but remember, the group leaders will be kids in their own age group, so if your child is extremely shy or hesitant to speak up and be included, they may not end up participating in projects as much as you'd like them to. Only YOU know your child well. Some children on the Autism spectrum may do perfectly well, while another may not feel that this class is a good fit.
The focus of the class is to increase their Lego skills, to teach them new and useful building methods and to improve upon their ability to build independently from the instructions that Lego sets come with. The idea is to get them to be thinking on their feet - creating their own creations from their minds, not just following step by step "put this piece here, then put this piece here" as they do in some building classes at Legoland. We feel that if kids wanted to be told EXACTLY how to build something, they could just open the instruction manuals and build from there - we want to encourage them to look at their Lego in a new way - to build things that they may not have thought of before.
In class, we're going to have the kids working together to create builds together that solve problems (like creating a bridge that spans a certain area and can hold weight). We're going to discuss and implement brainstorming (where no idea is a bad idea and everyone is asked to participate in coming up with suggestions for the build) and then we're going to challenge the teams to whittle down those suggestions by selecting the ideas that are most likely to work. We're not going to assign group leaders - we're going to encourage the groups of kids to pick their group leader once they get together, giving the kids multiple chances to be the leader, and the leader will be encouraged to make sure everyone in the group participates in the build and that everyone's ideas are heard. Obviously, this won't go perfectly, but I believe strongly that learning includes failing - and if your group doesn't work together effectively this time - hopefully you'll learn from that experience. Additionally, the kids won't be in the same group over and over - so they'll have a chance to get to work with quite a few other kids and to get to hear new perspectives and ideas along with many different points of view.
Question: My child has a learning disability and has an IEP in school. They have had some challenges and I'm trying to decide if this class would work out for them. Can you tell me more about what to expect?
Answer:Being very honest - our drop-off classes are not be a great fit for ALL kids. If your kiddo is shy - that's okay, as we'll do our best to get everyone involved and building, but if they struggle a great deal with communication, working on group projects, managing their behavior without direct supervision or support, or if they are not strong in many of the areas generally necessary to facilitate team work (such as clearly communicating their thoughts, suggestions and ideas, understanding oral instruction, listening to others suggestions, adapting to changes in projects, working under a tight timeline, treating others politely and fairly, giving or following directions - then our drop-off courses may not be the best fit for them, and likely do not have enough staff support to assist your child as much as would be ideally necessary.
Unfortunately, with our staff being all volunteers - it's not possible for us to acquire specially trained staff who can give extra attention and specific help to kids who might need more than just a little extra assistance. Yes, we can offer some extra help, but we're limited to one staff person per class in most situations. We are going to do our best to send emails ahead of each class letting parents know what to expect, or if there's anything students need to know before class. Remember- much of what they are going to be doing each week will have general "guidelines" but the kids won't be following step by step instructions - that's not what we're doing in this club. We're not just building lego sets, or having the kids follow the teacher step-by-step while we all build the same thing. There is a lot of free-building, and students who need more one-on-one instruction may feel that they are not prepared or comfortable going into projects.
For parents who are concerned because their child has a neurological difference, or a learning disability that requires intervention from an IEP in school - you'll have to use your best judgement and the information we're sharing here, to decide what you think before you register your child. If you're concerned about the class not being a good fit, we suggest that you let us know!
We ARE now running the co-op classes where students partner with an adult parent or guardian (or instructional aid) and attend the class as a pair. In those classes, the students will have the direct support of their adult team-mate and therefor, this class would be a much better fit for many children. Our co-op curriculum is geared towards working for kids who might not feel comfortable working in fast-paced, often loud group with a bunch of other kids with a huge variety in personalities. Our drop-off classes involve a lot of brainstorming and project planning along with cooperative building with as many as a half-dozen other kids, but the new course we're developing is more of an independent work-at-your-own-pace program that will allow students and their parents to work together at their own pace.
If you'd like to discuss the co-op curriculum with our staff, we'd love to talk to you personally. Please reach out - we're trying to work closely with the parents of autistic students and students with various learning disabilities, to help us continue to develop a curriculum that takes into account more individual students and their abilities, so it's most adaptive to suit kids who need that more supportive learning environment. If you think this second style of course is going to suit your kids better, than please, by all means, register for one of our co-op classes right away!
Hopefully that's answered any of the questions that you have - but I'm happy to discuss more if you've got any other questions! Please feel free to email or text me ANY time to discuss any of these issues or anything else that you're wondering about!