Friday, August 27, 2010

Beach Hut Renovations: "That'll Hold"

This final 2-week session of our summer program has been on Thomas' mind for some time now. This was the session during which we decided to exclude the "little kids" (his term for the 2-year-olds). One of the things that seemed to excite him the most was the prospect of adding a second story to our beach hut (aka "the castle," "the club house," "the fort," or simply "the house"), a project he seems to think was too dangerous to undertake with the little kids around.

I don't seem to have a current photo. It's much more built-out than this, but
you get the idea.

I happen to know that this structure, without fairly substantial reinforcement, is not capable of supporting a second floor. We built the original frame on a shipping pallet, over which we nailed lengths of old fencing planks to make a floor.

The adults added 2X4's as corner posts, then used more fencing planks (a neighbor was replacing his fence) to finish it out.

We've been adding all manner of things to this structure over the past few months, from pulleys and a sewer system, to partial walls, window screens, and a burlap bag roof. And while it's been a target for quite a number of improvements, it hasn't really been used much for dramatic play. The reason was well-illustrated last week when Ella decided to set up a tea party. By the time she got a table and two chairs in there, she barely had room to move. So while a second story may be out of the question for the time being, more space is something worth considering.

We have another pallet-floor available, but I already find it quite useful for other purposes.

As a moveable platform, I use it to re-define space outdoors.

It's a great place to position things like the cookie tree.

We like having a relatively flat place to build things or
drive cars . . .

. . . or just set up interesting "loose part" vignettes.

One of my routes to and from school (I have a few routes -- driving the same roads day after day makes me insane) takes me through the industrial Sodo district of Seattle. There are always clean shipping pallets leaned against warehouse walls for the taking, so I grabbed one on Wednesday because if we were going to add a room, we would need to start with a floor. This time, however, it wasn't going to be the adults who built it. This was a job for the kids.

Nia's dad Greg helped them use a tape measure to figure out how long our planks needed to be, assisted in drawing lines with a ruler where they needed to cut, then supported them in using the jigsaw to do the cutting.

You'll notice that 1) eye protection is being worn, 2) the wood
is secured with clamps, and 3) Greg is controlling the tool
by holding the motor while the child depresses the trigger.

Then it was time for hammering. A few of the kids were worried about the "noisy" saw, and opted to skip that part of the process, but the "noisy" hammering was less of a problem. Some of the children started their own nails, but Greg and I partially drove most of the nails to get the kids started, as well as to hold the planks in place so they wouldn't slide around as the kids worked.

Thomas declared, "That'll hold," before pounding the bent
nails down into the wood.

Again, you'll notice safety glasses for all, plus as an added measure, we marked off our construction area with caution cones, warning anyone who entered the area that they would need eye protection, even if they were just watching.

So now we have our new platform, already christened with a little late summer drizzle.

This is every bit as good as the ones we adults built. With just one more week of our summer program to go, I'm curious to see where this remodeling project takes us.

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Scott said...

A great beginning to your addition. And the kids getting to do it will make it even more "theirs."

I heard myself quoting you yesterday in a conversation about glue guns with my wife/fellow teacher. She wondered if parents would be leery (or worse) when we used the glue guns with kids. "Well, Tom says...." I went on to explain. And told her some of your stories about getting burned (or denying it).

We're just going for it!

Barbara Zaborowski said...

Great story, Tom! Today was our second day of school and sawing was far and away the most often cited as their favorite activity. One boy wanted to screw screws in and already knew that a nail hole was a great way to start a screw and knew how to pull the nail. He couldn't quite manage it, but he knew to flip the hammer around to pull it, just needed some expertise to show him a better direction. He's four! It's going to be a great year!!

Unknown said...

Only very great things can come from a vell made platform such as that. I love your students and their brilliant ideas.

Louise said...

I like the apprenticeship model that you've got happening...great stuff! :)

Play for Life said...

I'll be interested to see what they come up with with only one week to go. Let's hope they work fast!
Donna :) :)