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DIY Construction at Choice Time

By Kate Shapero

During the first week of school, a fifth grade student asked me if we could continue working with bamboo this year.   He enjoyed constructing the bamboo garden beds in fourth grade and wanted to create an entire playhouse from bamboo. I was intrigued by the idea, but also shared with him that it would take a lot of hard work.


By the third week of school, he had found four interested friends and asked to borrow a saw at lunch choice. Since that day, I’ve had the great pleasure of watching an entirely student-driven project unfold. At each choice time, there are respectful requests to borrow safety goggles, measuring tapes, saws and loppers. The crew has figured out which teachers are available during choice to accompany them to the bamboo forest so they can use tools under adult supervision. (They’ve also been able to graciously accept “no” for an answer on the days when it simply doesn’t work out.)   They’ve decided on the lengths necessary for their frame, hoisted 40 foot pieces of bamboo up to the science room deck and scoped out potential locations for the final build.

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In addition to the construction skills they’re practicing, I’ve been able to witness some pretty lovely social interactions. (Most of the actual cutting and planning work is happening on the deck outside of the science room.) I’ve heard friendly reminders they’ve given each other to wear goggles and witnessed the listening skills necessary when four people attempt to carry a stack of long bamboo through a forest of trees. This week, I heard one student yell out when he was upset that something was being cut incorrectly. His friend calmly said, “Hey, I know this project means a lot to you, but it’s still not okay to yell like that.” The first student apologized and acknowledged the truth in what his friend said. I was impressed by the obvious trust and accountability in their relationship. These are the types of interactions that we work and hope for as teachers; that students are empowered to realize their ideas and support each other along the way.

As for the house itself, I’m excited to see what happens and offer help as the crew works to make a three-dimensional structure come to fruition. Stop by the Moore Building deck if you’d like to check it out!

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