Sunday, November 9, 2008

There are no Legos in Franklin

Like all good nerds, I have a rather healthy affinity for Legos. They provided me with hour upon hour of entertainment and enjoyment, doing a lot to bring the little aerospace engineer out in me. There is something unique about a pile of Lego bricks that can bring almost anyone to a standstill. I remember being in Germany at an office building and in the waiting room there was a bowl of Lego bricks. The temptation proved to be too much and I was soon digging in working on a bridge. I was rather perturbed when the receptionist told me that it was time for my appointment; I mean, didn't she see my bridge wouldn't be complete without a car to cross it?

Lego and MD Escher? Nerd Nirvana!

The company itself is one that I truly like. The magazine Fast Company wrote an article on the company back in 2001 that remains one of my all time favourite magazine articles. In discussing the Danish company's trouble with coming to grips with the New Economy, the author offers wonderful insights regarding what makes Lego Lego. To me, the money quote which has stuck with me for almost seven years now is the following:
The only thing more vivid for Lego than the bricks and the history are what are known universally within the company as "Lego values." Not just the importance of free-form play. No Lego-designed toys are allowed to portray weapons from the 20th century ... Long before the invention of software, Lego made all of its toys backward compatible. Bricks produced in 2001 work seamlessly with bricks from 1971. And every toy that Lego offers -- even the simplest ones, given away with McDonald's Happy Meals -- requires construction, the touch of a child.
There's so much in there for me as a teacher to read into. Especially in my writing class, free-form thinking and the personal touch are both things that I am striving to do. Don't tell anyone, but I have a backup plan for days when my students are showing a lack of creativity. I'll just dump a bucket of bricks on the floor and tell them to have at it. If I have to I'll lead the way. It isn't as though they're too old to play with Legos. Heck, corporations play good money to let their employees play with Legos...

But enough about the wonder of Legos and their role in the education process; this past week I finally got around to unpacking some of my things that have been sitting in boxes since I moved over here in August. Among them are my Star Wars Lego set that I bought and built when I was in high school. Now, don't get any funny ideas about me being some sort of antisocial Star Wars nerd that can quote the movie or anything; my collection of Star Wars Lego sets is actually a result of a local K-Mart shutting down during the 2000-2002 time frame and me having plenty of disposable income. As a result I have a nice stash of Lego sets that I had on a shelf in my room doing nothing but collecting dust. Unfortunately there are no shelves here in this house, so in the boxes they sat.

But on Wednesday I was digging for something when I found my Lego sets. In a fit of sympathy I grabbed a can of canned air and gave them all a good dusting. In the course of doing so I had a bit of memory lane-itis. I suddenly had the compulsion to build a Lego set for no apparent reason. I think subconsciously that I was looking for a way to reignite my creativity because in the previous week I really felt as thought my creativity had been tapped out. I was working on a lesson plan and sat at the sheet of paper for 45 minutes without a single spark to go on. I was really in a funk after my students freaked out over a question on one of my quizzes that was specifically designed to stretch their critical thinking skills. I needed something to kickstart my creativity--and fast.

So I headed down to our wonderful Walmart and went a-searching for a Lego set. Nothing too big, but definitely something Star Wars-related as I had been watching the Clone Wars episodes on Friday evenings and some of the designs had intrigued the engineer in me. So I got through the claustrophobic spaces until I got to the toy department. I stated wandering through the aisles looking for the Legos. Surely they were here somewhere. I searched high and low until I came to the ghastly conclusion: they had no Lego sets on the shelves!

This was positively un-American (Well, really un-Danish, considering Lego's Danish roots, but for once I won't let facts get in the way of a good panic attack.) and really a commentary on how I feel this place is out of touch with the rest of the world at times. I've commented several times about how this Walmart has nothing, up to and including a lack of office supplies, but something as ubiquitous as Legos just stuns me. It wasn't as though there was empty shelves where one would say "Eh, we're all sold out!" as an excuse for this. There was literally no shelf space for the products at all. I'm just dumbfounded that the store wouldn't have any space for the essential children's toy. I mean, what's next, no computer games of note in the electronics department? Oh wait...

Until next time. Hopefully I'll have a shelf with my Lego sets proudly displaying my nerdiness by then.

No comments: