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LEGOLAND Discovery Center brings Brooklyn Bridge replica to local school

Building a bridge, brick by brick.

It was a Lego-filled day at the Hellenic Classical Charter School, 646 Fifth Avenue, as LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester partnered with the South Slope school to display a massive replica of the Brooklyn Bridge.

At the event, held on Fri. Jan. 25, LEGOLAND master builder Willis Reifsnyder presented the bridge that he built, utilizing an elaborate blueprint and around 60,000 Lego pieces. He also watched as several students presented their STEM projects during the school’s fair.

Reifsnyder, who has had a passion for Lego since he was a child, started to work for LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester this September, and was happy to show off his bridge.

“There’s no better place to display the Brooklyn Bridge than here in Brooklyn,” he said. “To be able to bring it to a school, to have the added context of having it here while they’re doing their science fair, is really special.”

The master builder described the project that he worked on for several months.

His rendition of the scale model of the bridge, he said, “Isn’t totally accurate considering the Brooklyn Bridge has a curve to it and how much height is to the road. It was more of trying to replicate the scale model as much as possible. As I started building archways, I started thinking, how can I alter this to be a better connection here, how can I make it stronger, because making a perfect replica of a smaller model, sometimes there are weaknesses that didn’t show up because some of the archways are not glued whereas the entire scale model was completely glued.”

One of Reifsnyder’s earliest memories is of his parents buying him Legos.

“I started building Lego when I was four years old,” he recalled. “My parents got me a shoebox full of Lego bricks from a yard sale. I still remember it. They probably thought it was a good financial decision to buy a toy that I could keep building, but over the years that has proved to be against them a bit. I have a pretty nice collection of Lego at this point.”

Science teacher Justin Draycott, who organizes building wide science programming, talked about the kids’ reaction and the importance of introducing the longstanding building blocks to them.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “To expose the kids to building, engineering in combination with their work in science is awesome. I hope maybe to spur a career or future interest. The more exposure, the better.”

He added how excited the kids were to see the replica of the bridge.

“I think it’s about the engagement and being completely hands on,” Draycott said, stressing the impact Lego has had over the decades. “It’s also for all ages. I’m a parent now and I have a four-year-old. We started to do Legos together and I think it’s a cool family activity. An hour goes by like nothing. We follow directions. She’s very calm when we build these things. As a teacher and parent, it’s an engaging activity.”

Dean of Academics Cathy Kakleas was happy that the day helped kids get excited about the subject.

“It just enhances what we are doing here,” she explained. “We are trying get them thinking about STEAM and STEM and the whole education field, while also including girls in this and getting them excited about engineering and designing.”

LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester Master Builder Willis Reifsnyder with his Lego version of the Brooklyn Bridge.

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