Thursday, July 29, 2010

Making A Forest House

Too often people treat the word "teach" as a synonym for "instruct." They are two entirely different things. The best days as a teacher are the ones where I forget all about instructing and instead think of myself the world's laziest games master. All I have to do is set things up the right way and I get paid to sit back and watch the show.

I mentioned that I've recently pruned some low-hanging branches from the three large cedars in my yard. While I've made various interesting, beautiful, and entertaining objects with the larger branches, I still have many of the fragrant, lush evergreen branch tips on my hands. These I took to school by way of giving the sandpit a temporary make-over.

I started, however, with some bare sticks, lashing them together with twine.

This is kick-butt lashing technique if I do say so myself . . .

I've been eager to try building something on the playground using this technique (which I probably learned during my brief stint in Boy Scouts) ever since my friend Jenny posted this on her blog Let The Children Play. (I'm sure the equipment manufacturer about which she writes didn't lash their things together, but I would like their product even more if they did!)

I built a triangular frame which I attached to our triple-trunked magnolia and festooned it with a cedar branch.

After building the frame, I'd had plenty of experience with the slow process of traditional lashing, so resorted to the new and improved modern day version, which employs discarded bicycle tire inner tubes.

The knot kind of obscures the lashing, but I used the same
over-and-around technique. The power of inner tubes
is that you only need to wrap the sticks once for a secure hold.

I always keep a few expired bicycle tire inner tubes around -- they are endlessly useful.

Since I'd removed the water walls due to lack of recent interest, our homemade ladder was available to serve as a roof upon which to arrange more cedar branches.

I then re-purposed our pulley-zip line rope and hung more cedar branches from it.

It was at this point that I starting thinking of it as a "forest house."

As you can see I also used some of the large chunks of
wood from my recent score.

I thought this little doorway was a bit flimsy, but as you will
later see, it took a lot of weight.

It smells so good inside there.

It was really shaping up, as I tweaked and shifted . . .

I even pulled out one of our manufacturing patterns.

. . . and in the end decided to remove the water pump for a few days, which I do periodically to give the children who don't like to get wet a chance to play in the sand pit without worry.

I did all of this on Monday in anticipation of our class on Tuesday. Granted, we had a lot going on in other parts of the classroom, but I really only saw a couple kids check out this latest piece of interactive art during the day. Oh, come on! Before I left for home, disappointed, I inspected the fort I'd begun for them and found this:

My flimsy doorway had been made into a window with this remarkable construction. It looks almost like some beaver dams I've seen. It seemed like the work of Orlando.

I guess that's what it took because Wednesday, yesterday, was another story.

Before I knew what was happening, the flimsy doorway was entirely sealed off with a collection of scrap wood, sand tools, and even ribbons of coffee filter seaweed ripped from the rainbow room. Soon the spray bottles full of liquid water color found their way into the act.

The children found they needed to use our step ladder to get the job done.

I looooove this picture!

I've often been at the center of "coaching" kids through projects like this, but yesterday I was just an observer, occasional making descriptive statements about what I saw or holding the ladder steady, but little else. It was all about them.

The children even called for "more belts" and I happily obliged.

Charlie L.'s mom Shelly had brought in several freshly cut bamboo poles from her yard. Those got used as well . . .

As did many other interesting objects . . .

Finally, most of the seaweed from our rainbow room was
harvested to decorate the forest house. By now that flimsy
doorway has earned the right to not be called flimsy.

When I arrive at school this morning, this is what I'll find:

I promised I'd leave it like this "for a while." Music to a lazy games master's ears.

Bookmark and Share


Ms. Erin's HeartRoom said...

what could be more intriguing than an forest cave? Not much, in my eyes! :)

Nina said...

this is great. I still recall with delight the hours my sisters and I spent in a little ring of trees at my uncle and aunt's house - having tea with woodland animals (in our minds), hiding from each other, reading under their cool shade. how unusual but lovely a bed of pine needles felt under bare feet. and how you had to sit carefully on them to not get poked. my son LOVES hiding in our bushes and "exploring" as he says when he asks me to lift him into them.

I linked to your blog, I think your ideas are great! thank you for sharing.

Cathy @ NurtureStore said...

Oh my girls are giong to go crazy when they see this!

Juliet Robertson said...

I love the photos you have posted that show the process. I think dens or 'cubbies' are an intrinsic part of our being and need to have a home away from home.... Call it our nest building if you want.

I miss the cedar trees of North America. I'd bring along my volcano kettle and make a cup of cedar tea in that forest house with all those leaves on tap.

SquiggleMum said...

Tom I was coming over to compliment you on your lashing, but I see you're already pretty pleased with yourself ;-) I grew up in Guides, and always prided myself on my knots, lashing and bushcraft.

I adore natural cubbies. They are hands down my favourite kind. I like Juliet's analogy of "nest building"...

Michele - @OCPlayParks said...

I wish my kids could go to your school! Great job and so much fun. I love just watching to see where kids take things. You did a perfect job illustrating how their imaginations take hold - and take off!

Marghanita hughes said...

Love, love, love this post Tom.