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Creating Kidizens: Lego program teaches children lessons in civics
March 13, 2014, 05:00 AM By Kerry Chan Daily Journal

Kerry Chan/Daily Journal
Julia Segal, center, works with a fellow Kidizen and a teacher to help build an airport for Dragon City, a Lego town they created.

At Kidizens in Los Altos, a group of students are constructing buildings with Legos and trying to solve a municipal dilemma in a town, they named Dragon City. A resident, Loopy Lily, is wreaking havoc getting lost and bumping into buildings because there are no signs on the roads.

Using Legos, children who attend Kidizens experience the evolution of a city and government in social and non-threatening environment. The play-based approach program is designed to foster a sense of community, critical thinking and problem-solving skills and confidence, said owner and operator Prerana Vaidya.

There is great potential for the program, Vaidya said, and she has expanded with a second location in Belmont with hopes of setting up programs in classrooms of schools throughout the Bay Area.

“The kids are building cities and learning about civic responsibility, city governments and economic concepts,” said Vaidya. “They are role-playing as leaders in a city council setting and that is where all the good decision and analytical thinking comes into play.”

The children team up in groups of two and collaboratively come up with ideas to build an entire city which functions and operates as one would in real life, Vaidya said. For example, at a recent mock city council meeting, the kids talked about the importance of having a fire department and if they should build one for their town or collaborate with another city depending on available funds.

“Every time I come I get a new experience depending on the group of kids that are with me,” said Julia Segal, an 8-year-old who has been attending Kidizens for more than two years.

Sitting on the floor, Segal snapped multi-colored Lego tiles together to construct four walls for a new building and said she enjoys making important things like a courthouse or police station.

Upon building their city, the two kids in each group become co-mayors responsible for solving issues that arise in their jurisdiction. The teachers read a “telegram” to each group throughout the day that poses new issues such as the absence of an airport, lack of road signs and other citizen complaints.

As in real life, a city needs schools, roads, bridges, libraries and businesses such as restaurants, pet stores, movie theaters and gas stations to sustain a thriving community.

The kids are asked to create businesses and services, such as banks, stores, shops and movie theaters. They develop a business plan, complete with location strategies, budgets, funding plans and go through a mock process of obtaining a business loan and license to operate.

The entire process not only teaches entrepreneurial skills, civic responsibility, history and government but also improves pubic speaking skills, Vaidya said.

“Even the shiest of the kids will start speaking his voice because he wants to be heard and he wants to make sure there isn’t a road passing through his house,” Vaidya said.

The idea of using Legos to enhance learning is not a new concept but Vaidya saw an opportunity to standardize the process into a tangible and teachable curriculum that could be easily transplanted. Vaidya said a teacher at Duvanech Middle School in Palo Alto used Legos in the classroom to enhance learning, which became the inspiration to create an ongoing after-school program. Vaidya said she realized the potential of teaching with Legos and decided to acquire the rights and assets in 2001.

Since then, she has developed a systematic format that teaches civic leadership, politics, public speaking, business and entrepreneurial skills through peer engagement and role-playing.



Tags: vaidya, legos, skills, group, their, speaking,

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