Friday, July 09, 2010

Call for Legos!

Thanks to the Dallas Housing Authority (DHA), we were provided space that allowed us to operate our Teen University, Library/Bookstore and Connect U technology lab in the Roseland community since September of last year. Conversations with residents (youth and adults) over the years had told me that our communities didn't have access to the educational opportunities people want and need in order to be successful. Though we had an After-School Academy, it only allowed us to reach kids up to 5th grade. So, I was very excited once we were provided with the space to expand our programs.

Despite our 300% increase in number of programs, we realized about halfway into the school year that we were still missing something. The middle schoolers weren't fitting in to our 6th-12th grade Teen University concept. They just weren't old enough for it to work for them. So, Terrence, one of our Americorps members, branched off on his own to create Mid-Teen U for the middle school (and sometimes younger) boys.

What he found was that the boys wanted to learn "how to." They wanted to figure out how to build structures. They were interested in knowing how things worked. So, the staff started researching and found some curriculum on aerodynamics. They started dropping things from the bannister to see how fast it would fall. They let the boys experiment. They looked into building wind turbines.

As a result, instead of the boys being on the outside of the building getting into trouble with their friends, several of them began going inside and using their brain power to think about educational concepts. You know that saying, "The idle mind is a devil's workshop"? Over the years, I have begun to understand that if we challenge our kids to think and work with them in our programs on things that cause them to leave for the day still thinking and wondering about how they can do something or what they can create next, their brain power is used up strategizing what they can do next. As a result, they know how to use their brain to create and construct instead of destroy.

Investing in these young men takes staffing, time, effort, and lots of emotional energy. However, not investing in them ends up taking much more staff, time, effort, and emotional energy in a much more negative way.

So, this summer, we have worked to try to continue the program two days a week. (We hope to have it 5 days a week this fall). We invested in Lego Smart kits for each kid with the goal of entering Lego competitions in the fall. The boys have begun to take an interest and now want to create a community with Legos. The only problem is, the Lego kits only have about 15 pieces each. So, we need more Legos!

If you or anyone you know can donate retired Legos (tubs, kits, etc.), we would love to take them off your hands...and maybe when the young guys get their city or other structure built, you can come see it....or at least see them in process.