Brick by brick

Gina Gibbs

PHOTO BY Shannon Rooney

Gina Gibbs has arguably one of the most fun jobs around—she spends her days helping kids build with Legos. Gibbs works for Bricks 4 Kidz, a franchise opened earlier this year in west Chico by Dave and Linda Phelps that offers educational enrichment opportunities to kids. Part of Gibbs’ job involves visiting about 10 school sites in Chico and facilitating after-school programs that allow kids to work with Legos in developing critical-thinking skills and creativity. Gibbs is a teacher who wears various hats: She also works as adjunct faculty in the Butte College English Department, and she has co-facilitated a creative writing summer camp for kids through Chico State. Bricks 4 Kidz is at 510 Walnut Ave., 332-9172.

How’d you get a job at Bricks 4 Kidz?

I saw on Craigslist that they were looking for a teacher to run the after-school programs, and they really wanted someone who loved kids and is creative—and being into Legos wouldn’t hurt! I came in to drop off my résumé, and Linda and I just instantly became friends, because her vision for Bricks 4 Kidz matched my own personal pedagogies. She pretty much hired me immediately.

What does your after-school program work entail?

I go into different elementary schools almost every day of the week. Each student gets a little kit with 250 different builds they can do. What’s cool about the franchise is that there’s a team that’s constantly working on making things better and more tailored for kids’ abilities.

What’s an example of something kids do?

One theme we have is “tsunami”—there’s a PowerPoint-guided discussion about tsunamis, to start with. Everything is motorized. There are a trillion different themes that the school principal picks from. What I really like is that not only are the lessons aligned with Common Core and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), there’s a take-home for the kids to take with them so the discussion can continue around the dinner table. That’s my main job … to facilitate those after-school classes.

What else do you do at Bricks 4 Kidz?

I help kids with building in the free play room [at Bricks 4 Kidz], and I also help with birthday parties, which are really fun. We have pizza and cake, and everyone gets to take home a mini-build.

What does “free play” entail?

There are these little boxes that are labeled with each type of Lego. I allow kids to just let their creativity out … say what they want to build and do it. Then I ask them questions to help them think about their build in a more advanced way, such as “Gosh, this is great—how can we get this guy to move more?” I help them to make that next cognitive step …. You can “nerd out” here, and it’s praised! Being the nerd here is the cool thing.

How does this job correspond with your work as an English instructor?

Being an English instructor working with students is a lot like building with Legos because you start with nothing—a blank screen and blinking cursor—and you have to come up with something. Most of the time, it is through trial and error, learning through failure … it’s a lot of self-exploration.