Friday, September 23, 2016

The Lifecycle Of Loose Parts

Earlier this week I wrote about dismantling one of our old shipping pallets so that it would fit in the dumpster. Yesterday we did the same to a second one. All this deconstruction was done because we've recently received four fresh new pallets and it was time to dispose of the old, rotting ones. Coincidentally, I recently came across four lengths of 2X4 in a "free" pile at a construction site near the school.

On Monday, Teacher Rachel and I, while goofing around with the new loose parts, discovered that if you stand a pair of shipping pallets on their sides and slide a couple 2X4's between the slates of one pallet and then another, you create stable, opposing walls. The kids immediately called our creation "the house," and have been clambering on it and adding to it all week.

These pallets are much heavier than the ones we usually have around the place and I was a little worried that they would be too much for the kids, but they proved me wrong. We've learned that it takes at least six kids to shift one, which means there's been a lot of, "We need help!" being shouted from the vicinity of the house.

One child, one day, experimented with the exclusionary statement, "This is my house," attempting to bar the door with his body, but the other kids simply said, "No it's not" and overwhelmed him much the way the flying monkeys did Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

The house has emerged up near the swings because that's where the pallets had been delivered. One afternoon, a team of four-year-olds used the house as a fort to protect themselves from a second team who were swinging on their bellies, scooping fists full of wood chips, and hurling them at the ramparts.

One wall of the house is called the "tippy part" or "teeter wall." A long plank of wood was inserted through the pallet slats at an angle. When the kids stand on the end inside the house, the wall remains firmly in place. When they climb out onto the end outside the house, the wall tips outward by a foot or so before the maze of 2X4's holding the structure together provide a stop, preventing the wall from falling all the way to the ground.

Yesterday, as I was leaving, I discovered that one corner of the house is being used to stash a hoard of "jewels" (florist marbles).

Sooner or later an enterprising team of children will take it upon themselves to remove some of the 2X4's, perhaps as materials for another project, but most likely motivated by the proposition, "Let's see if we can," then the house will collapse and its parts will be commandeered for other purposes. Then one day a few years from now we will drag the pallets down to the workbench and dismantle them.

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Rafer Nelsen said...

I just experienced joy in seeing those pallets put to all those new uses. (I was wondering if they might be too heavy when I dropped them off, but they were the best I had in my pile...) If you need more, or lighter ones even, just say the word.

Anonymous said...

Love the loose parts. Do the kids get splinters from the rough wood?