On February 19, an exhibit opens at the South Coast Botanic Gardens that will attract your little LEGO lover like a bee to flowers, as 15 nature-themed giant plastic brick creations will grace the gardens. But there’s no need to wait: kids can get busy making their own LEGO in nature creation right now (rainy day activity alert!) to enter this contest (with cool prizes like custom LEGO sets or tickets to LEGOLAND).

seankenney-lego-buffalophoto: Sean Kenney

The Exhibit
The exhibit, called Nature Connects: Art with LEGO® Bricks is by artist Sean Kenney, and will be on display at the South Coast Botanic Gardens from February 19-May 8, 2016. 15 nature themed creations were created from nearly half a million (464,770, to be exact) LEGO bricks, and it’s cool to see how the beauty and motion of nature were captured with plastic bricks.

seankenney-lego-butterflyphoto: Sean Kenney

Here’s some fun facts about what you’ll see:

  • The exhibition has been featured in botanic gardens around the country,but this is the first time it’s come to the LA area.
  • Artist Sean Kenney is the world’s first LEGO Certified Professional. Yes, LEGO builder is a real job; your kids were right!
  • Kenney and his team spent more than 4,170 hours (173 days) building the pieces in the exhibit. And you thought your LEGO maniacs could spend a long time with their bricks…
  • The tallest sculpture is the Hummingbird, at 72 inches.
  • The longest sculpture is the Dragonfly, at 48 inches.
  • The heaviest sculpture is the Bison, at 626 lbs.

After checking out all these cool toy-created statues, kids will want to get playing, so there will be more than 30,000 LEGO bricks on hand at the Garden throughout the exhibit’s run. But if they’re ready to build now, check out the details below for a contest the garden is holding for LEGO builders of all ages.

seankenney-lego-foxphoto: Sean Kenney

Ticket and entry time information for the exhibit will be available soon, check the website for more information about the exhibit.

The Contest
The LEGO Build Contest: Imagine the Future wants to not only have kids see the exhibit, but take part. The goal of this contest is to bring the Nature Connects exhibit to life and have kids get involved by creating a statue or scene that illustrates the bond, or ecological cooperation, between humans and nature. So get designing and building!

south-coast-botanic-gardensphoto: South Coast Botanic Gardens

There are 4 Builder Divisions, divided by ages: Mini (6-9 year olds), Junior (kids 10-13 School), Young (teens age 14-17) and Open (adults, or families with adults participating on the team). Each non-adult team may have a non-participating adult adviser. For the Mini & Junior divisions the challenge is to create a scene or objects that represent interconnected relationships within the Garden. This can include humans, plants or animals; a few objects or several. For the Young and Open groups, the idea is to look to the future, and create a scene or sculpture reflecting how nature and humans will interact in the future. All designs will be graded on creativity and aesthetics.

seankenney-lego-hummingbirdphoto: Sean Kenney

Not that you need incentive, but the prizes are super cool: LEGOLAND California family-pack tickets, LEGO Store/LEGO.com gift certificates and Custom South Coast Botanic Garden LEGO Kits.

To register, all you need to do is bring your registration form, $5 processing fee and entry (LEGO scene or statue) to the Garden before February 27, 2016 at 8:30 a.m. Simply visit the Guest Services Center, where they will collect and process the registration and hand you a copy of the Official Rules and Challenge Statements.

MILAN ITALY - MAY 10: Children play at Lego Village event held in the city streets to promote creativity and manual ability on MAY 10 2014 in Milan.photo: South Coast Botanic Gardens

The Garden is also will hosting LEGO Build Workshops as a perk for registered contestants, where local architecture, engineering and design students will mentor youngsters with an inclination towards creative problem-solving and STEAM-oriented projects. The dates for the workshops are January 9, 10, 23, 24, February 6, 7, 20, 21 from 1–4 p.m.

Be sure to check the website for all the official rules and regulations.

Jeannie Mutraisphoto: Jeannie Mutrais

The Gardens
The 87-acre South Coast Botanic Garden is filled with plants representing more than 2,000 different species from places as far away as Australia and southern Africa. It’s perfect for families, because it’s a big enough place that kids will have plenty to see, smell and touch but it’s not so big that they’ll get exhausted from too much walking. Don’t miss the children’s garden, where fairies, gnomes, dragons, secret tunnels and more await eager explorers.  All great inspiration for their contest entry…

tom-zimmermanphoto: Tom Zimmerman

Cost: Admission is $9 for adults, $4 for kids 5 to 12, kids 4 & under are free. Admission on the third Tuesday of each month is free.

South Coast Botanic Gardens
26300 Crenshaw Blvd.
Palos Verdes
Online: southcoastbotanicgarden.org

—Meghan Rose


What’s your favorite LEGO creation you’ve ever seen? How about the coolest thing your kids have built? We’d love to talk LEGO in the comment section!