Thursday, August 16, 2012

Not Bad For A Failure

When last we visited the tree house project, we had built a climbing wall that may or may not have been intended to be part of the tree house, but did at least grow out of the tree house building urge. Prior to that I had talked my way through the installation of a pair of pulleys and a length of rope that allowed the kids to transport small buckets full of stuff to the top of the concrete slide. And in previous episodes, the kids had built a ladder, a process I chronicled in a series of 3 posts (herehere, and here) with an epilogue thrown in for good measure. 

I tried engaging with Charlotte in a conversation about the tree house project yesterday. She was nice about it, but made it clear that she had better things to do. She might not be over it altogether, but with only one more day left in this summer session, it'll be at least 3 weeks before I see her again, and that's a lifetime here at this end of the educational world.

Who knows why it's no longer on the front burner? Perhaps, after having taken things this far, she'd had the opportunity to think it through a little more and couldn't quite see how to get there from here. Maybe I somehow ruined it for her or maybe it's just too exhausting being the one carrying a vision for a whole tree house. It likely had a lot to do with the fact that most of the kids with whom we'd built the ladder weren't enrolled for the current two week session. And there was definitely an element of having found something else she really wanted to be doing. But whatever the case, this exchange with her let me know that she was passing the job of holding the tree house vision to me to do with as I pleased.

We did not build a tree house. Of course not; it was impossible from the start. Even professional carpenters couldn't have built an acceptable tree house in those cedars. For four weeks running we worked together, sporadically, on a tree house project that did not produce a tree house. All real learning is built upon failure.

And while we failed to build a tree house, we did, however, produce a ladder, a pulley conveyor, and a climbing wall, not to mention inventing a process that became a creative, cooperative, inclusive experience, all while learning a little something about the physical world and our friends. Not bad for a failure.

In the meantime, a pair of older boys have been working on a project of their own, one that has sometimes included a half dozen other kids, but has most often just been the two of them. As far as I can tell it involves being pirates, collecting treasure, making occasional fierce faces, and housekeeping. I mentioned in yesterday's post how they were using some of our shelving parts as a floor that they kept well-swept. They've spent quite a bit of effort hauling furniture up into a corner of the outdoor classroom, up a short part of our concrete slope, and under the lilacs. They're calling it a their "cabin," but it's been looking more and more like a tree house every day. One of these boys is a holdover from our prime tree house project session and the other has experience in building cabins

Perhaps this was exactly the connection that needed to be made to move our tree house project from the realms of impossible, into this real world. Maybe this is where Charlotte's vision has gone, up into the lilacs at the top of our concrete slope. It's a cabin in the trees: isn't that the definition of a tree house?

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Anonymous said...

Love this so much. Climbing trees was one of my favorite things as a kid. Even if the tree house project didn't come to fruition at least it was fun. :-)

Smudge & Dribble

Unknown said...

Love your blog! Wish I could go to school there!

Unknown said...

Printer and Ink
Failure is the way of success. So don't worry about failure.... Do Ur work Sincerely....