Local business uses Legos to encourage children to use their imaginations brick by brick

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Three camps will be offered during the holiday season in the Gause Elementary School cafeteria, 1100 34th St. Registration is done through WCER, which is located at the Washougal School District administration building, 4855 Evergreen Way.

o "Pancakes! Pancakes!" and Holiday Crafts: 6 to 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 28. Participants are welcome to attend in their pajamas, and help make and eat pancakes. They will also read the book, "Pancakes! Pancakes!" by Eric Carle, and do crafts and activities.

o Parent Night Out Open Lego Lab: 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 19. Attendees ages 4 to 11 will participate in building contests and 10 minute "build off," challenges. There will be Lego and Duplo block building stations. Pizza will be served.

o "Frozen" Party: noon to 3 p.m. Monday, Dec. 29. Participants ages 3 to 11 will participate in an afternoon of crafts and activities from the movie, "Frozen." Movie-themed attire is welcome.

For more information, visit www.brickzonekids.com

Three camps will be offered during the holiday season in the Gause Elementary School cafeteria, 1100 34th St. Registration is done through WCER, which is located at the Washougal School District administration building, 4855 Evergreen Way.

o “Pancakes! Pancakes!” and Holiday Crafts: 6 to 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 28. Participants are welcome to attend in their pajamas, and help make and eat pancakes. They will also read the book, “Pancakes! Pancakes!” by Eric Carle, and do crafts and activities.

o Parent Night Out Open Lego Lab: 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 19. Attendees ages 4 to 11 will participate in building contests and 10 minute “build off,” challenges. There will be Lego and Duplo block building stations. Pizza will be served.

o “Frozen” Party: noon to 3 p.m. Monday, Dec. 29. Participants ages 3 to 11 will participate in an afternoon of crafts and activities from the movie, “Frozen.” Movie-themed attire is welcome.

For more information, visit www.brickzonekids.com

Two local educators have started a business that is dedicated to helping kids learn to explore, build and learn, all while having fun.

BrickZoneKids is the brainchild of Nikki Mael, a Washougal preschool teacher, and Carrie Hopkins, a substitute teacher. They incorporate Legos into all of their activities and camps, even a recent one based on the movie, “Frozen.”

“What I love about Legos is that it is so open-ended,” Mael said. “It teaches kids so much.”

Noted Hopkins, “It allows us as teachers to be really creative and come up with classes and camps. Our goal is to teach kids to use their engineering skills and imagination to collaborate as peers in a group setting.”

The two started BrickZoneKids six months ago, but have been teaching Lego Engineering together for four years. The business also offers themed birthday parties, camps and an after-school club.

Both women live in Washougal. Hopkins has two children, ages 8 and 10; and Mael has three teenagers, ages 19, 17 and 13.

The two began working together after Hopkins enrolled her children in the Washougal School District preschool program.

“Carrie trusted us with her kids and she also subbed in our class,” Mael said. “She believed in what we were doing and also had a background as a teacher.”

Mael has been working with children for 20 years and has a degree in early childhood education through Clark College.

Hopkins has worked with children for 15 years and has a master’s degree in teaching from the University of Portland.

The two are sometimes assisted by Mael’s co-teacher, Lisa Walters.

BrickZone birthday party offerings include a princess party, ninja party, “Frozen” party and Minecraft party. Mael and Hopkins will also work with clients to help create other unique birthday party themes. Each child takes home a Lego creation they build during the event.

Classes include Lego Engineering and Lego Robotics. In the engineering class, kids create motorized and non-motorized machines. They also learn about pulleys, gears and weight. The robotics class is for students who have extensive knowledge with Legos and who are in the third through sixth-grade. In the class, they build robot hands that can grab objects, lifts that move and robotic arms.

Lego Club comes to individual schools and instructs with a number of different themes. Mael and Hopkins said it provides Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)learning, creative thinking and group sharing. Students explore and learn about architecture, engineering and problem solve through Lego bricks.

“Sometimes it is hard for younger children to work together on a project but when they get out of school and into the workforce, that’s what they’ll have to do,” said Hopkins.

Currently, BrickZoneKids is offering classes through Washougal Community Education and Recreation, but is hoping to expand offerings to the Camas area soon.

“I just love teaching kids and seeing them happy,” Mael said.

Added Hopkins, “It’s all about the kids. I love teaching them and listening to them say when they leave that they can’t wait to come to the next class or camp.”

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