Saturday, November 01, 2014

Flooding The Playhouse

Earlier this week, I wrote about the incredible ongoing engineering project in which the kids have been engaged. They've continued to experiment with controlling the flow of water downhill.

On Wednesday, as I was goofing around with some kids elsewhere, we heard a lot of shouting and looked up to find that they had once again created a flood that "threatened" the garden. As I mentioned in that last post, the garden really isn't in jeopardy since we raised the beds higher, but my shouting, "Don't let the water get in the garden! I don't want sand on my lettuce!" has become an integral part of the game, a challenge that half of them take in relative earnest, while the other half treats as a joke, wanting to hear my curmudgeonly shouts. So there's always a little low-grade contention between the engineers about whether or not to steer away from, or aim for, the garden.

On this day, however, I didn't initially say anything, but rather just watched the action from afar, causing several kids to rush over to me shouting in faux anxiety, "The water is going in the garden!" by way of prompting me to shout. I played along, but without much passion since I was busy with something else, "Don't let the water get in the garden," this time adding, "Why don't you aim for the playhouse or something?" which is farther down the hill. I didn't mean it literally, but rather figured it might give them a new challenge, one I hardly expected them to take up.

This is a "safety hole"

After a few minutes, Henry came down to inform me that they had created a new "safety hole," the term the kids are using to describe the containment reservoir technique they have innovated for controlling the water.

Some time later, one of our parent-teachers sidled up to me, asking, "I just wanted to make sure it's okay that they're flooding the playhouse."

I looked up to see the entire team down at the bottom of the hill, clustered around the playhouse. Upon closer investigation, I found that the entire first floor was at least an inch deep in water, with a steady stream continuing to flow through it's doorway. Normally, this would not have been a problem, but our big all-school Halloween party was to start in a couple hours, meaning that we would shortly be visited by a hundred or so children dressed up in their costumes, all of which needed to survive for at least a couple more days. I didn't know how happy anyone would be about muddying up those costumes before the big night.

I explained my thinking to the kids, who quickly dammed the thing up, before setting to work on variously bailing, sweeping and kicking at the standing water in an attempt to get it to vacate the premises, all to little effect. It was my assumption that the water would just slowly seep out on it's own, but Titus and Audrey's grandpa obviously built this thing to last and as the end of our regular school day approached the floor was still flooded.

A few of us adults discussed more long term measures like drilling a few holes in the floor or even installing a proper drain, but didn't have the tools or time to make it happen before the evening festivities. I was resigning myself to having to warn kids and parents about the potential for costume damage throughout the evening, when a couple of girls arrived upon the scene, stopping in the doorway to survey the situation. They wanted to use the playhouse as their home or castle or hideout, but weren't prepared for wading.

I said, "It's flooded. If you don't want to get wet, you might have to play somewhere else."

They didn't respond to me, at least not verbally. After a few minutes they had their own engineering plan. They simply lay down a new floor, using the foot-long pieces of cedar that are intended for reconfiguring the walls, doors, and windows. They discovered they needed two layers of wood to raise their soles above the waterline.


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caitie said...

I love how their minds work!

Robin DeLamater said...

Reading your stories every week, I am struck by the fact that these experiences take time and a trust that the time invested is worthwhile. Education on a large scale in schools is about efficiency and "ensuring" outcomes, so this experience with the flooding would have been read about in a book or as a word problem in a math book or a prediction in a science lesson. In your space, the children live it. I can't think of a more important contribution your work could be making right now!

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