LEGO grant builds excitement at Chartiers Valley Primary School

Doug Gulasy
| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

First-grade teacher Ellen Zissis didn't know what to expect from Chartiers Valley Primary School's LEGO Education Showcase last week, but she wasn't anticipating a line out the door 15 minutes before the event started.

“My poor little 9-year-old was the one in charge of telling people, ‘You can't come in yet,'” Zissis said. “He came in and (said), ‘I think we need to start early.'”

The event, which featured eight stations focused on LEGO projects, attracted 180 children and their parents to the school March 20.

“My brother really liked it, (and) so did my dad,” said first-grader Madison Mincin, 7. “And I really liked it, too.”

The event was made possible through a $1,900 LEGO Education Showcase Grant that Zissis secured through the Education Blueprints Association, a nonprofit that provides “learning resources and programs that deliver education solutions for individuals, teachers and students.” Only 100 grants were available nationwide.

While the line formed early before the event, the anticipation among the students started long before that.

The LEGOs Zissis ordered with the grant arrived in January. When they arrived, students in the lunch line noticed the boxes in the main office, with “LEGO” clearly stamped on their side.

“Their little faces were pressed up against the window like, ‘Look, look!'” Zissis said. “We started opening them, and we couldn't get the lunch line moving because they were all like, ‘Look at the LEGOs!' They were amazed.”

The LEGOs purchased include the LEGO Education Space and Airport Set, which the school plans to use as part of its curriculum for lessons about space. LEGO math games will be used in math classes, and students in Zissis' class will get a chance to use LEGOs as a reward for good behavior.

“Any first-grade teacher that wants to use is welcome to just take them and go,” Zissis said. “We've got plenty.”

The event last week included three different building stations and five other stations, including a basketball-shooting robot from the Girls of Steel Robotics club, LEGO book readings by the Bridgeville Public Library and a LEGO math game that pitted students against each other or family members.

Zissis said event organizers tried to make the event as family-oriented as possible.

“(My grandmother and I) did all the stations together except the robot,” said first-grader Jude Pagliai, 6. “I was allowed to do the robot by myself.”

Each student picked one of his three building projects to display at the showcase, and those projects will be featured at the school library for the next few weeks.

Students said the event was fun overall, and they can't wait to keep using the LEGOs in school.

“I like LEGOs because I use my imagination to build what I want to build,” said first-grader Mika Hoffman, 7.

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or

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