By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — A box of 200 LEGO bricks can be used to visually explain a situation or tell a story. For 21st Space Wing master resilience trainers and training assistants the popular toys are valuable tools in helping fellow Airmen.
Peterson Air Force Base is always looking for intuitive ways to aid resiliency training, and just like every great LEGO set this unique training opportunity fell into place. A group of Team Pete resiliency trainers gathered March 9 to learn from LEGO Education’s top trainer how to use the bricks in building resiliency across their units.
Kelly Reddin, global master trainer for LEGO Education, trained the group in ways to use LEGO bricks in resilience training scenarios as part of BuildToExpress, a program developed by the company to help facilitate individual expression in a variety of situations using the iconic plastic building bricks.
Layne Rainey, LEGO Education consultant said LEGO bricks are widely used in the corporate and education industries in situations ranging from traumatic event counseling to teaching math or team building.
“It’s a safe way to communicate and create dialog,” he said.
“This is a product created for this,” said Reddin. “BuildToExpress is a way to get people to express their reflections and thoughts.”
The session began with a simple project assigned to the group. Reddin asked them to build a tower using no more than 10 pieces with a two minute time limit. And with the joyful, familiar clatter of sorting LEGO bricks the project was underway.
Some were delicate spires, while others were fashioned to look like the Twin Towers and even a hunting tree stand. To demonstrate how such activities are used, Reddin asked the builders questions about why they used certain bricks or why they picked the type of tower they constructed. The exercise showed the participants they could tell a story on the spot.
The next assignment was a bit more detailed, requiring the group to build a model representing something they did before coming to the morning’s training. They were allowed 25 bricks and four minutes to complete the task. Once the projects were built, Reddin asked builders to explain their work. Following this round of assignments the group was noticeably more open in sharing stories and details about the models.
Using LEGO bricks through the BuildToExpress program is intended to work that way, Reddin said.
“BuildToExpress is about talking about you,” she said. “It allows every participant to share their thoughts and ideas through multiple mediums — kinesthetically, visually and orally. You get 100 percent participation in a way that others will remember.”
The method helps shy people share their stories because most of the attention is focused on the model. They can tell their story through what they build, making it easier to focus on what’s going on and telling that story, she said.
When people reflect during the build it allows time to consider the situation, Reddin said. They can step back and see things from a different perspective, thinking through an event before speaking about it so they can realize the impact of decision making.
Using something like LEGO bricks helps engage people in the resiliency process. The pieces bring about a feeling of playfulness and creativity that more successfully gets people involved in the process than other methods, such as straight discussion or surveys.
“People don’t forget what they want to say when they are listening to others. Also, people will remember what others said because abstract ideas have been made tangible,” said Reddin.
The 150 plus resiliency trainers and assistant trainers on Team Pete will use the LEGO brick kits to supplement the Air Force resiliency training curriculum they are trained to deliver said Bev Price, 21st Space Wing director of installation resilience operations.
The resiliency trainers are not counselors, Price said, but are certified instructors tasked with training the 11 individual resilience skills determined by the Air Force.
“(The 11 skills) are backed by scientific data as being beneficial to developing and strengthening resilience on a personal and professional level,” said Price. The plan is to incorporate the LEGO brick kits into resiliency training to cement the philosophy behind the skills.
Reddin went through the skills one-by-one with the group. She, along with the members of the group, brought forth ideas on how to use the bricks for each of them, making the training practical as well as educational.
“Four hours of resilience skills training are required per calendar year for each (active duty) Airman and encouraged for total force, including government service civilians and family members,” Price said. “Using LEGO bricks is another way to get the skills ingrained into Airmen.”
Resiliency training is built into each Wingman Day. The next one, scheduled for May, 13, will implement the use of LEGO bricks in team building activities.