Playing with Legos used to be just a fun brick-building activity. But for a while now, Legos are used as an educational tool to teach everything from math and science to literacy and robotics.

The Rutgers Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development Program and the Cape May County Library have teamed up to offer a day of Lego-themed fun from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Lockwood Youth Center, 355 Court House-South Dennis Road in Cape May Court House.

There will be hands-on activities for preschoolers to adults, screenings of Brick films (films made by youth), Mindstorms Robotics activities, stations with Lego games and a Lego Contest. Julie Karavan, 4-H agent for Cape May County, had the idea for Legopalooza.

"Legopalooza is designed to offer kids a taste of the 4-H experience, including opportunities to showcase original work, enjoy hands-on activities and receive recognition for their efforts," Karavan said. "Everyone will get participation recognition. Activities will be offered by staff from the Cape May County Library, 4-H staff and volunteers and 4-H Teen Ambassadors."

The Cape May County Library has offered Lego programs for many years. Area branches hold monthly Lego Club meetings where there is free play with Legos based around a theme to promote literacy through storytelling.

"My son went to the Lego clubs, and it helps young people develop positive social skills through cooperative building activities," Karavan said. "Legos are a far cry from what they were when I was growing up. They are much more intricate, fragile and open to so many ways to teach. They have simple activities for preschool children all the way up to advanced robotics for college students and adults. There are kits you can buy that promote literacy, like Harry Potter kits and The Hobbit. There are math projects you can do. It's endless."

Participants in Legopalooza are invited to bring their own Lego creations to showcase in the Lego Contest. There will be two categories and four age groups. The Kit Build category is for entries built according to instructions. Kit Bash entries are those that involve original construction or design. Groups can be entered but should be entered in the age group of the oldest participant.

Karavan, who became 4-H agent last summer, is also the club leader for the 4-H Cyber Explorers. She said her goal is to form a partnership between

4-H, the county library and local schools to bring more programs to Cape May County.

"My main interest and goal is to promote science, engineering and technology programs to all ages," Karavan said. "I want to be sure the 4-H is serving residents of the entire county. Legos are just one way to do that and ideal since they appeal to all age groups. It teaches problem-solving, how to follow directions, creativity and so much more. I coached a Junior First Lego League once and saw how the kids work cooperatively and learned so many things.

"Lego is a platform to engage kids in a hands-on way. It is ideal for 4-H because we focus on experiential learning and life skills."

Karavan's goal is to develop a series of cooperative programs with the library.

"4-H promotes positive youth development for kids from kindergarten to one year out of high school," she said. "The library is the perfect venue for community clubs. I hope to partner with the county library to establish Junior First Lego League groups as well as county Lego robotics programs.

"One of the benefits of working with 4-H is the research-based curriculum available through the land-grant universities. 4-H offers robotics curriculum, and I've worked with curriculum from Lego Education as well, including programs which teach about climate science and simple machines using Legos."

Legopalooza is free. Register by calling 609-465-5115, ext. 605. Arrangements can be made to drop off Lego entries in advance of the event.

Contact Debra Rech: