Photo by Glenn Callahan Stowe students Nathan Rice, Riley Borghoff, Jace Boerger, Hugh North, Connor North, Jack Meyer, Aiden Hamilton, Jack Norris and Clark Brown with the model of Trapp Family Lodge they constructed from Lego pieces.
Students at Stowe Elementary School are using Legos in a national competition.
The school is a finalist in the annual Lego Education Landmark competition, and students are building a replica of Trapp Family Lodge as their entry.
The competition is part of the national Lego KidsFest in Hartford, Conn., this Friday, Dec. 3.
Nine students in grades four and five are participating in the Legos project, led by Tamara North, an enrichment teacher at the school.
About 10 other teams from throughout New England and beyond are also in the finals, and each team has chosen a well-known landmark from its town to build out of the colorful interlocking plastic bricks. The teachers serving as team leaders wrote essays explaining why the landmark is important to their towns and students.
In her essay, North wrote, “The von Trapp family moved to Stowe after World War II, settling in the Green Mountains because it reminded them of their beautiful home in Austria. The family is the same one featured in the classic film ‘The Sound of Music.' The lodge is an iconic Stowe building with interesting architecture and character, loved by locals and tourists alike.
“Today the Trapp Family Lodge holds an important place in the vitality of Stowe, Vermont. It is still run by the von Trapp family. With a population of only 4,000, every child in Stowe has been to the lodge and many parents and teenagers work at the lodge. Thousands of people visit the Trapp Family Lodge each year. …”
The Trapp Family Lodge building is both intricate and familiar enough to make it the perfect challenge for Lego fans, North said.
The project incorporates a number of academic disciplines and life skills — math, science, history, problem-solving and creative expression.
It also connects well with Stowe's enrichment curriculum, which stresses creativity, persistence, and striving for accuracy.
Under the contest guidelines, teams are allowed to stretch the limits of their creativity with one restriction: They cannot build bigger than the 16- by 16-inch inch palette provided by Lego. Lego provides basic blocks and students are allowed to add bricks as needed.
Students were hard at work Tuesday, putting the finishing touches on their replica of the Alpine-inspired lodge. They started the project about three weeks ago and spent an entire day during Thanksgiving vacation working on it.
Working with photos of the lodge, they started from the bottom, working their way up to a removable roof with windowed dormers.
Intricate details abound, from a second-story deck to landscaping with flowers, trees and benches. Inside, there's a fireplace that lights up when connected to a battery-powered generator.
Furniture, food and tiny Lego people are also visible inside the building; a guest rests on a bed in one room while two guests lounge on a sofa in another.
“We did a dollhouse effect, with lots of little things and people,” said student Aidan Hamilton.
The hardest part of the project was finding enough brown Legos; the bricks come in mostly primary colors. Students resorted to borrowing brown Lego pieces and donating them from their own stashes.
Parents of one student have volunteered to drop off the project in Hartford next weekend. The team has glued the pieces together — contest rules allow it — to prevent any mishaps in transit.
North is overwhelmed by the amount of work her students have put into the project, and by the impressive results.
“One of the best things was seeing how they could build it themselves,” North said. “I thought I'd be holding their hands, but they wanted me to stand back. They are budding engineers.”