Monday, May 05, 2014

trusting the value of interest and experience...

I had a small dilemma today at school in that the upper elementary school students wanted to build a Gaga court and, had clearly in mind how they wanted to do it. The school maintenance man,  the head of school, and I, having put our heads together and having more experience in making things, had planned a slightly different approach. We started the day with a discussion to persuade them to consider our approach, which involved building with layered 2 x 4s stacked log cabin style and secured at the corners with 1/2 in. steel rebar.

Three of the girls from the class had never been to the lumber yard before, so I chose them to be my helpers in picking up the materials.

One thing I quickly learned was that all the 2 x 4's we carried home from the lumber yard were not exactly the same length, so in drilling them on the drill press, I had to measure both holes from one end and drill without using a stop. Once I had that sink in, we proceeded with building the court and were finished with the basic construction in about 3 hours, including the time spent at the lumber yard.  Because both ends of the 2 x 4s had to be lowered onto the pins at the same time, to keep from binding, this was a good team building exercise.

This building technique allowed us to build the court without a post hole digger and without use of a skill saw. I did use a drill press to drill the holes where the 2 x 4s connect at the corners, but that could have been done with a hand held drill. This project was also a great demonstration of math principles and geometry. In order to square and align the court, we had to measure caddy-corner between the pieces of 1/2 in. rebar. If you try this, be careful in your measurements and use a 9/16 in. drill so that the holes are not too tight.

The kids are so excited about this project. They had to yield to our expertise in the making of it, but almost all the labor was theirs, including shoveling gravel from the court. We will add blocking to strengthen the sides and add 2 x 6s as seats on 3 sides  to complete the project.

Our gaga court was inspired by school travel. The kids, having played Gaga on their spring trip, wanted to come home and make their own court. The money used came from the Silver Tea, an annual charitable giving event sponsored by Saint James Episcopal Women.

This may be the first Gaga court in Arkansas. The game has all the fun of dodgeball, but all the action takes place below the knees, so there are no face shots that injure the kids. This project was owned by the kids from day one, and their enthusiasm was palpable. This project fit the first premise of educational sloyd... Start with the interests of the child.

Make, fix and create...

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