Bolton’s Bricks: Teacher Shares Love of Legos
Ed Bolton, chemistry teacher, spends each day exploring the basic building blocks of matter with his students. But outside of school, he has a passion for a different type of building blocks: Lego bricks.
Jan Bolton, Ed’s mother, said he got his first set of Duplo blocks, The Lego Group’s line of brick toys for preschoolers, when he was three because that was the recommended age.
“When it’s your first child, you’re very strict about all those things,” Jan said.
In his early building years, Jan said Ed was more interested in Superman than Legos, but they continued to buy new sets because they were fun to do together. The more they built, the more his interest in the small plastic bricks grew. After Ed’s younger brother, Michael, became interested in the toys, they became a staple of family life for the Boltons.
“Pretty much after that, Legos were an every occasion toy,” Jan said.
Jan said the boys’ Lego collection continued to grow each year, their favorite builds being from the Pirates line of sets.
“By the time he got into late high school and early college, I realized I was still buying Legos for him,” Jan said. “About that time, I realized he’s probably always going to like Legos.”
As an adult, Legos built their way into Ed’s marriage to his wife, Traci, whom he met in college. They graduated and Ed later became a teacher at MHS, three years after Traci started teaching at Lafayette High School.
Traci said they frequently walk through the toy aisles while shopping to see what is on the shelves.
“We had gone down the Lego aisle and he talked about how he had played with them when he was younger,” Traci said “I had never played with them. I didn’t have Legos.”
So about 10 years ago when Traci had to take her students to band camp for a week, she decided to buy Ed a Lego City police station set to keep him busy. He completed the set and bought another set for them to do together upon her return.
“The rest is crazy history,” Traci said.
The couple started with smaller sets, then moved to larger sets and are now “out of space” in their house. Traci said they now mostly focus on larger Lego City sets.
“And Star Wars,” Traci said. “You can’t go wrong with Star Wars.”
Ed said the collaborative aspect of Legos allows him and his wife to work together to create something. Traci does all the odd number instructions, while Ed does the evens.
“We’re both really competitive,” Ed said. “If we go play tennis, there has to be a winner and a loser, and that can end up in a fight. Legos are something we can do together that aren’t competitive, so that’s really cool.”
Ed said in the beginning they made the sets specifically following the instructions. But now the couple also likes to challenge themselves to build their own creations like a museum or Lamborghini.
“Sometimes it’s the aspect of, ‘I just want to build this to the instructions for therapeutic relaxation’,” Ed said. “Other times it’s a challenge of, ‘Can I make this work?’”
Legos are also a way for Ed to spend time with his niece and nephews. When his mother was moving, he picked up boxes that contained items from his childhood, including many older Lego sets. He then rebuilt the sets so that a second generation of Bolton kids could play together, along with their Uncle Ed and Aunt Traci.
“Boy kids can do it, girl kids can do it, anyone can do it,” Ed said.
Through sharing his love of Legos, he also shares another passion of his: counting.
In May of 2015, Ed created an Instagram account to post selfies of himself with students at graduation, a tradition he has continued each year since. The social implications of social media became “fascinating” to Ed. He said people are too serious about their image on social media, so he decided to counter this by sharing photos of him counting things.
Throughout the years, Ed has counted the days of the football turf being resurfaced, the STEM-wing construction, states he visited during summer vacation, his Converse collection, all the books he read in 2018 and his collection of Lego minifigures.
As of Nov. 5, 2019, Ed has posted pictures of 248 unique Lego minifigures. Each photo is captioned with what number it is in the series, the name of the figure captured, and the hashtag “icountthings”. Most of the photos are taken within MHS, but some have been taken on hikes, at baseball games, at Disney World or even in a particle accelerator at Cornell University.
“It seems to be how I mark my movement through history,” Ed said. “I’m not making any political or social commentary. It’s lighthearted and fun.”
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