Sitting on the floor, little hands clip together train tracks. Kitty corner to the train play, a group of three kindergarten students gathers up LEGO® dolls and begins to play house. Several students bop around the room from station to station, alternating the LEGO they are playing with.
"LEGO is a powerful learning tool. Whatever a child's mind sees, the child can create," explained David Brear, a Lynn Valley resident, retired educator and LEGO enthusiast.
For the past two school years, Brear has volunteered his time to visit Boundary Elementary School once a week – and he carts his thousands of pieces of LEGO with him each time.
"Dave is a lovely volunteer who brings fabulous LEGO to Boundary one morning each week to provide an opportunity for students to do collaborative LEGO projects while building a variety of skills in listening and working together," said Tim MacLeod, Principal, École Boundary Elementary School.
Brear usually works with small groups of students in kindergarten or grade one. For the last visit of each term, he brings enough LEGO with him for an entire class to enjoy a LEGO celebration together. Brear started volunteering his time in the North Vancouver School District after he retired from teaching in Vancouver and Coquitlam. While teaching, he discovered how valuable LEGO can be to students' learning. He taught a gifted program where he used LEGO to teach robotics. He saw firsthand the many ways that students thrive when LEGO is used as a teaching tool.
"When students are given the ability to be creative, and they know that there is no wrong way, they take risks and they succeed," said Brear. "LEGO really is good for all students."
Over the past decade, Brear has volunteered his time in many North Vancouver schools. He has also donated LEGO to schools. In addition to in-school volunteering and support, he has also run after school LEGO programs, community LEGO programs, and spring break and summer camps. Last year, he decided to dedicate one day a week to Boundary Elementary because he has a strong connection to the school. His three children attended Boundary Elementary.
"My three kids came to Boundary. After my daughter Ashley passed away at the age of 22 from cancer, I was a bit lost. LEGO helped me to reinvigorate my passion for teaching by allowing me to channel my energy towards helping other children succeed. My way of coping with the loss of my daughter was to give back," said Brear.
He is giving back to his daughter's former school is a big way. By bringing his LEGO teachings to the school each week, Brear provides unique opportunities for the school's youngest students to learn and grow.
"The positive impact David has had on our students is immense. The kids are so excited each week when he visits. It is one of their favourite activities, and they have grown and learned so much from it. Dave has such engaging materials that it is easy to connect LEGO time with what each student is learning," explained Leigh Koenigsfest, Kindergarten Teacher, Boundary Elementary School.
At the end of the school year in June 2019, students at Boundary Elementary thanked Brear by creating a kindness quilt. Students in grades six and seven shared their learning about the importance of kindness on a fabric square that was incorporated into the quilt. The quilt was presented to Brear at a celebration on June 12, 2019.
David Brear is presented with a kindness quilt by teacher Leigh Koenigsfest