Friday, April 09, 2010

A Place For A Cold Beer And A Plate Of Carne Asada

A week ago, I showed you the playhouse frame I built for our outdoor classroom.

I threw those burlap sacks on top, but the idea is that the kids, over time, will build it out as they see fit, and as their construction abilities allow them. And that's our big challenge right now. There is a lot of interest in using the hammers, nails, saws, and drills, and most of our focus has tended to be on the simple acts of just being able to drive a nail, successfully cut through a piece of wood, and drill holes. As a woodworker and artist myself, I know that I often have a hard time imagining what I can make until I've horsed around with a new tool for awhile.

At the same time we're working on skills, I've also been urging the adults to step up their efforts at role modeling what's possible. This kind of outdoor construction/tinkering play is a new concept for all of us so I'm finding it useful to have the grown-ups steer the play a little more than normal. In fact, this week I pretty much assigned two parents to the station each day, one charged with teaching/playing while the other focused on safety. This is one of the true beauty parts of cooperative preschool: I can put two assistant teachers on a project and still have 5 more at my disposal to deploy to the sand pit, the garden, Little World, and snack, while I'm free to roam from place to place.

After a week of this, here are some pictures of how our our playhouse looks:

As I'd hoped, the burlap bags are a fantastic way to create quick, easy walls and roofs, without a lot of special skills required. 

And as expected, a more permanent build-out will likely take months if not years. Dennis' dad Terry basically spent an entire outdoor session working with the kids to install that strip of peg board you see nailed across the bottom. We have a bunch of left over peg board and I had the idea that since it already has holes in it, it might be a simple construction material to get going. Terry helped the kids measure the space, measure the wood, then the kids took turns sawing along a straight line. I highly recommend peg board for sawing practice. Terry had them working on sawing from "hole to hole," which gave the kids a sense of accomplishment even if they didn't have the stamina to cut all the way through a whole piece of wood.

The two-year olds love installing those two boards as a kind of balance beam walkway. Some of them just spend their entire outdoor time walking back and forth across it. Charlotte had the idea of using a couple burlap bags on the floor as "beds."

That step ladder got used quite a bit. We're teaching them to not stand on the very top step. Luna climbed up it, wearing her goggles and got to work trying to saw off one of the boards. I saw Katherine and others up there with their hammers, decorating with bottle caps.

Adults have been punching holes in the caps with nails, then the kids do the rest. Thomas added the metal basket you see in the picture below. It's a "mailbox."

We also now have a steering wheel on our house . . .

. . . and other useful items like an address and some hooks and nails for hanging things like doorbells.

It's probably because of the burlap and bottle caps, but it's starting to remind me of a place where you can get a cold beer and a plate of carne asada on a beach in Mexico.

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Life with Kaishon said...

They are innovative builders for certain.

sproutsinthekitchen said...

or you might need a beer and a carne asada on a beach in Mexico to celebrate the completion of that play house! so much fun! I love the idea of the kids building it themselves, at their own speed/skill/creativity level, and using it all the while--blurring those lines between work and play. Jules would LOVE it--I might have to swipe this idea, too!

Thanks for your comment, by the way. When I told Jules, he of course wanted to know WHICH drawing you loved best. :)

PJ Mullen said...

Every house needs a steering wheel :)

jenny said...

I love that it is such an organic process! The bottle caps are a great idea and the image of the little one climbing up the step ladder and getting straight to work is beautiful.

And I agree, every house does need a steering wheel.

Once again I envy the way you have parents at every 'station'. What an amazing resouce for all of you - parents, kids and teachers. If I was a parent I'd want to be at the Mexican beach shack :)

Kari Bowers said...

Tom, do you have any problems with licensing and using real tools? We had the experience recently of having to eliminate them from our environment after an analyst told us they were not made for children so children could not use them (even though they were child-sized, and I explained how we teach them to use them respectfully and with care and are always supervised...etc)? If no, how do you avoid it? Wonderful, innovative work by the way!

Teacher Tom said...

@Kari . . . We're not licensed.

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