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Wilson staff member and student take LEGO challenge to next level

By Garrett Simmons
Lethbridge School Division

LEGO is a passion for Wilson Middle School staff member Emily LeBaron and her son, Wilson student Isaac Nielson.
That passion was on full display this winter, when the creative duo entered a project in the Lethbridge School Division 2022/2023 LEGO Challenge.
The project, a re-creation of Wilson Middle School, certainly turned heads, with its scope, scale and realism. LeBaron posted the project on her YouTube channel, which received rave reviews: WILSON VIDEO.
“We have heard, ‘That video made my day!’ ‘How did you build that?’ ‘Where did you get the pieces?’ and “I love the little details,’ ” said LeBaron, of just some of the positive comments they have received. “The little details like Peter Pan on the stage, motion sensor lights, a working treadmill, free bananas in the common area and kids hiding in the bathroom get some great reactions. My very favourite reaction is the big smile when a student recognizes their self, ‘That’s me!’ It was so fun to customize the minifigures to look like specific students and teachers.”
Probably the most common question the duo received was a simple - How did you built that?
“Our answer is always, one brick at a time,” said LeBaron. “Middle school can be a pretty wild place, but I found it therapeutic and entertaining to, ‘Tell the story.’ ”
They started the LEGO project when the competition was announced in November.
“I figured it would be a fun mother-son activity, and would also bring some smiles to the school we work at and attend,” said LeBaron. “Isaac is definitely the more technical one and I really enjoy the creative side of things. We played around with a few ideas and watched some episodes of LEGO Masters for inspiration. When we saw a little school set at the store, we decided it would be fun to try and expand it to look like Wilson.”
The majority of the building was done during the winter break but in total, the build took about three months. The project is five feet by three feet and includes nine baseplates, 75 mini figures and over 2,500 bricks.
“The biggest challenge was finding the right bricks,” said LeBaron. “Buying multiple sets would have been too expensive, so thankfully we found a website where people sell individual pieces. Isaac priced out the bricks and shipping. Sometimes, places like Lithuania turned out to be the best price. It was exciting to get little packages of bricks in the mail from all around the world.”
With a large collection of bricks already on hand, another challenge was sorting them all.
“Sorting took about 10-times longer that we would have expected, but there was something relaxing about it,” said LeBaron. “We could easily go through a big pile while watching a show or putting on some music.”
Through it all LeBaron added a lot of lessons were learned along the way.
“It was fun to realize that there really are no limits to what you can build with an idea and the pieces,” she said. “We learned the proper names and colours of the bricks. We can speak the LEGO lingo pretty well now, like 1x4 plate with two studs. We even learned about SNOT bricks (Studs Not On Top).”
LeBaron also had no idea there are 75-plus colours of LEGO.
“It’s come a long way since I was a kid. I ultimately learned that you are never too old to play with toys. Turns out that LEGO can be an art medium like painting/drawing/sculpture.”

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