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LEGOs lay the foundation for learning in school

Alone, it is nothing but a little block.

But with hundreds of others, it can be just about anything you want it to be -- including an Arctic landscape.

That is what a few of the 30 Boght Hills students who took part in the Junior For Inspiration of Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST, LEGO League built this fall when they completed the annual FIRST challenge.

According to Michelle Simkulet, coach and coordinator of the Boght Hills Junior FIRST LEGO League and an 18-year engineer at InterScience Troy, the national FIRST organization presents all junior leagues and standard leagues with a science and technology-related challenge. Participants in the league then are provided a set of LEGOs and told to build something that exemplifies the challenge.

This year's challenge, Simkulet said, was to study differences of climate throughout the world, and to construct something using one moveable part that depicts a climate.

The kids were learning about global climate, what climate is and tools that are used to study climate, said Simkulet. "In general, it makes the kids more informed about how climate impacts our daily lives."

Simkulet said the league learned about climates of different natures, including arctic climates, warm-weather climates and even some climates a little closer to home.

"They learned about farm production and how it affects our daily lives," she said.

Simkulet said the Boght Hills junior league does not focus as much on competition as it does on the learning aspect of the challenges, which is why each team of five and six students receives an award at the end of the challenge based on an element of their design that is unique in the league.

The students in the Boght Hills Junior FIRST LEGO League range from first- to fourth-graders, and they participate in the league once a week after school in the fall. While there are national challenges based on the FIRST LEGO League themes, Simkulet said the Boght Hills league likes to stay very local, giving each student a chance to win an award based on his or her construction and designs.

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