Teaching at Colorado Center of The Blind

The Colorado Center of the Blind is “a renowned training center that has provided innovative teaching techniques and philosophy on the lives of blind people, taking them to new heights of independence”. They reached out to us in early May to see if we would be interested in bringing STEM based programs to their summer program held yearly for blind children at their center.

In our meeting to plan for our STEM workshop, we wanted to see and try out our program with their summer program leadership team. This was in order to help our instructors feel comfortable in adapting our teaching styles to be able to teach the blind. We provided a workshop for their summer program counselors on Tuesday June 4th.

What a truly eye opening experience! When teaching our program, we really were unprepared with just how high functioning our blind students were. Not only were they focused on our directions, but we were blown away at their spatial awareness. We told them where to find the LEGO bricks around them and after some brief directions, they were on their way!


Our students did their build at a table with LEGO 2×4 bricks spread out in front of them. Jen Schubert, did a wonderful job introducing what the pieces we were going to use, describing the type of bricks we would use and the orientation of each brick, as they were expected to build two piers of our corbelled arch bridge.


LEGOs are tactile, their studs are not only beneficial for building with, but working with our blind friends, we were able to clearly describe how each brick fit for each layer of our bridge. We also had 2 sample piers prepared as well, and our students used the example to see our project: counting the layers of each “staircase,” the cracks of each stack, and the cracks between bricks to make sure their piers were built correctly.


Some builders were done within the first five minutes of the build! We added the deck plates and our early finishers got started by adding 1x bricks to the outside studs for railings. We had prepared 32×32 sheets with pieces to create a gravity car chassis if we had time. And did we ever! We had two gravity car chassis that were being shared by the group as they felt the holes of each beam to make sure they placed their axles correctly. They found their bushings and 4x plates after first orienting themselves with the pieces by touch. The gravity car was a little more difficult for some builders, but with persistence and guidance by Nick Spencer and Rob Angcay every single student not only created a gravity car chassis, but used decoration pieces also found on the table to create race cars, trucks, tractors, and one even had a propeller to fly!

We transferred their bridge from the table to a bench about 3 feet away from where they built it. Our students then were able to finally see out long their bridge became by walking over and orienting themselves to the end of the bridge solely by following the directions of Rob Angcay’s voice. Then, they walked the length of the bridge one by one. “Whoa, we made it this long?” were some words of excitement from our students.


They then made their way back to the table to begin clean up. Our students were able to take their gravity car apart and create build piles, where they returned their pieces to their specific bins as Jen and Nick walked around the table with specific piece bins, letting them know which pieces belonged to their bin.

What a success! Our instructors felt rewarded, and most importantly we have started a wonderful relationship with an amazing program. We plan to return to offer a weekend workshop in July where we will teach another program with the kids of their summer program.

Press Advisory: Play-Well Northwest Opens, Innovation Through Play




WHERE:  Play-Well Northwest LEGO Activity Center, 11743 124th Avenue NE, Kirkland, WA 98034

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A student excited to build his world out of LEGO at Play-Well Northwest.

The former U.S. Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, recently said, “the top 10 in-demand jobs in the future don’t exist today. We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”  In the northwest region of the country, where constant innovation is the key to a strong economy, a center called Play-Well Northwest is opening.  Its main purpose is to help build the problem solvers and innovators of the future through play.  The creator of Play-Well Northwest, Play-Well TEKnologies, has been teaching engineering to kids using LEGO across the country for the past 16 years.  Play-Well now teaches over 80,000 kids a year, but where some of the most creative endeavors happen are at their centers.  Play-Well Northwest will serve as an incubator of ideas, where kids get to help create, test, and play with new, innovative programs, from LEGO architectural workshops to LEGO engineering summer camps.

Play-Well Northwest

Center Manager, Brandon Jones, organizing all 200,000 pieces of LEGO in preparation for the grand opening.

The World Economic Forum recently ranked the United States 52nd in the quality of mathematics and science education and 27th in developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving undergraduate degrees in science or engineering.  Even with the big push for STEM education in the past decade, initial results have not shown a major increase in college graduates from STEM related fields.  What is missing is the innovative play that encourages children to explore these fields.  Here is what Brandon Jones, Play-Well Northwest Center Manager, recently said about Play-Well’s philosophy towards teaching: “we believe kids learn best through play.  Play-Well Northwest was created as a space for children to explore, problem solve, and create through the world of LEGO.”  Play-Well Northwest attempts to cultivate that level of interest in these fields through play, challenging kids to see the world as problem solvers and explorers.  The grand opening serves as a launching pad to show how the center hopes to inspire the innovators that will solve the problems of tomorrow by simply playing today.

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Play-Well Northwest will be having its grand opening celebration on Saturday, May 18th from 10 AM – 5 PM.   Play-Well TEKnologies believes that kids learn best through play. So, Play-Well Northwest was created as a space for children to explore, problem solve, and create through the world of LEGO.  At the event, kids and parents will be able to test out new projects and curriculum, participate in engineering challenges, express themselves through building, and celebrate the opening with cake.

For more information, please contact Brandon Jones at (425) 244-9361 or brandon@play-well.orgPlay-Well TEKnologies programs are not authorized, sponsored or endorsed by the LEGO® Group.

Red Tricycle Article on the Grand Opening of our Play-Well Northwest LEGO Activity Center!

We are so excited to announce the grand opening of our Play-Well Northwest LEGO Activity Center in Kirkland, WA this Saturday, May 18th. Red Tricycle just wrote an article about the center.



The best part of the event is that it is free to come! If you are in the neighborhood, come by. If you know any families in the Seattle area, pass this along to them.

If you’d like more information about our Play-Well Northwest Grand Opening, visit http://play-well.org/pwnw_grand.shtml.

Play Well!

Play-Well Mother’s Day LEGO Giveaway

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Happy Mother’s Day!  We wanted to tell all the awesome moms we know, thank you for what you do.  To celebrate the day, we decided to have a Play-Well Mother’s Day LEGO Raffle.  Your family could win a Play-Well LEGO Engineering Birthday Party, a LEGO Iron Man Set, or a LEGO Bow Tie.  Click the link below to participate in this free raffle:

Play-Well End of The School Year Rafflecopter Giveaway

We hope you can join us this summer!

Click HERE to find a Play-Well LEGO Engineering Camp Near You!

Bridging The Gap Between Seniors and Students Using LEGO

On February 1st, 2013, our non-profit partner, Play-Well Outreach, ran an intergenerational program with residents of Tamalpais retirement home and a 4th grade class from Kentfield’s Bacich Elementary School.  The Larkspur Patch was there to do the story.   Here is the article.

Seniors and Students Build Wall and Relationships

Residents of The Tamalpais retirement community and students from Jennifer Sterling’s fourth grade class at Kentfield’s Bacich Elementary School used LEGOS® to build their own version of the Great Wall of China on January 30 during their regular visit arranged through LITA’s Bridging Generations program.  Led by guest Tim Bowen, Founder and President of Play-Well TEKnologies, the activity involved small groups of seniors and students building segments of the wall that were then all connected.  Bowen volunteered his time and brought the supplies to facilitate this activity.

Intergenerational Photo 1

Tim Bowen, Founder and President of Play-Well TEKnologies helps Bacich 4th grader and The Tamalpais resident complete their final LEGO wall project Credit Jessie Nicely

“We are so glad that Tim approached us to conduct this engaging activity since it enabled the students to teach something new to the seniors,  most of whom had never played with LEGOS® before,” said Dena Selix, LITA’s Intergenerational Coordinator and a  credentialed teacher. “Our goal with Bridging Generations is to bring seniors and students together through meaningful lessons and activities that foster ongoing relationships throughout the school year. Ironically, by building a wall together today, the seniors and students built upon their relationships with each other.”

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Bacich fourth grader Ella Hyman shows longtime Bridging Generations participant Tamiko Flannery, a resident of The Tamalpais, how to build with LEGOS. Credit Dena Selix

In its fifth year, LITA’s Bridging Generations program matches elementary school students from schools around Marin to visit regularly with residents of long-term care facilities throughout the county.  This school year, there are a total of eight classes from schools around the county visiting nearby assisted living communities in their towns, including Greenbrae, Corte Madera, Mill Valley, San Rafael and Novato.

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The Tamalpais resident and longtime Bridging Generations participant, Marilyn Davis, helps fourth grader Jake Klompus build the base of their wall. Credit Dena Selix

Founded in 1975, LITA is a nonprofit organization that strives to improve the quality of life for residents of Marin’s skilled nursing, assisted living and board and care facilities by matching volunteers for regular visits.  The organization’s four other programs are One-to-One Friends, The Pet Connection, LITA Families, and Holiday Gifts for the Elderly.

Based in San Anselmo, Play-Well TEKnologies offers classes, workshops, and summer camps at over 200 public school, private school, home school, and summer camp sites. Its project-based programs are designed to teach principles and methods of engineering, to encourage students to work through design challenges using what they have learned, and to allow students to work at their optimal pace.

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Bacich Teacher Jennifer Sterling assists with her fourth graders’ wall built with The Tamalpais resident Edith Hana. Credit Dena Selix

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Myrna Pepper, resident of The Tamalpais and longtime Bridging Generations participant, works with her Bacich fourth grade buddies, Dexter Lama and Christopher Pontius, to complete their parapet. Credit Dena Selix

The entire article can be found here.