The Library’s Teen Department has participated in an exciting opportunity highlighting local history research and STEM skills. Iconic Joplin is a contest in which teams of 12-16 year-olds study a Joplin-area landmark and recreate it in LEGOs. It is an official event of Joplin’s Sesquicentennial celebration this year.
Thirty teens divided up into six teams which worked together over the next four months. The teams kicked off their work in December 2022 by getting to know each other, selecting a landmark, formulating an initial plan for their build, and creating a mini-build to symbolize their group. As they researched their sites, teams had access to local history resources including primary source material to help them. On the construction side, teams had an option to consult with an expert (engineer, architect, LEGO master, etc.). Teams had the option for a site visit, where appropriate. Each team also had a modest budget they could spend on specialty LEGOs for their build.
The Joplin Public Library was one of three local sites hosting Iconic Joplin teams along with the Joplin History & Mineral Museum and the Creative Learning Alliance, our local STEAM center. Host sites partnered to provide space, staff assistance, and guidance during the eight Saturday sessions it took to create the builds.
The six landmarks chosen ranged from historic to contemporary buildings to geographic features of the area. One of the teams hosted by the Joplin Public Library portrayed Grand Falls, a picturesque waterfall that was a recreational hotspot at the turn of the 20th century, and utilized both light and motorized elements to create the falls. Another Library team picked our new building as a contemporary landmark, depicting it cutaway-style to showcase both the exterior elements and interior decor. Teams from the Joplin History & Mineral Museum also used cutaway-style builds to recreate their landmarks, Crystal Cave (a mineral-rich underground cave/recreational spot) and the garage apartment site of the infamous 1933 shootout with Bonnie and Clyde. Teams working at the Creative Learning Alliance built Joplin’s Union Depot, a transportation hub for the area, and the Olivia Apartments, a historic building which had burned prior to recent renovations.
The teams’ completed builds went on display to the public April 13 at Joplin’s Spiva Center for the Arts. The LEGO landmarks will be available for viewing there through May 13. The public is invited to vote for their favorite Iconic Joplin build; brief videos about the builds along with voting are available at https://tally.so/r/3q4lK7 The contest will culminate in an awards ceremony on June 8 to present prizes for people’s choice, technical skill, authenticity, and creativity.
An adventure which has been much more than just piecing plastic bricks together, Iconic Joplin has provided opportunities for teens to explore their community, creativity, problem solving, and analytical skills.
Iconic Joplin is the creation of local entrepreneur, Lisa Nelson, who envisioned a way to provide teens with opportunities to build STEM skills while creating ties to their communities. Nelson’s venture, Landmark Builds, was born while constructing LEGO sets with her teenage son and was developed through the Idea Accelerator program of Builders and Backers.