And I’m not talking about the cute milk carton style birdhouses either. I’m talking about a wooden birdhouse, complete with…
wait for it…
A little over a year ago, I would’ve looked at someone like they were crazy if they even suggested giving three/four year olds a hammer and nails. But over the past year I have seen preschooler do some amazing things, all it takes is a little trust and guidance.
Before the start of the school year last year, my supervisor and I took a little road trip to a place called Ren’s House, right outside of Harrisonburg Va. http://www.renshouse.com/ My rockstar CDA advisor was our guide for this mini trip, and promised we would be amazed. She was not wrong. We saw many marvelous things at Ren’s House. My favorite (as you can see from my post on Mud kitchens) was the mud kitchen/ water pump/outdoor sink duo. That entire playground was a wonderland. Butterfly gardens, outdoor easels, simple machines, a music wall, and much much more. One thing in particular caught my eye outside. It was a stump, with hundreds of nails hammered into it. This was my first encounter with the idea of letting preschoolers learn with real tools. I walked around the rest of the tour with the idea in my head. Would that be something I’d be comfortable doing? What a thought!
Later in the tour, inside the classroom, I noticed an actual woodworking table. No way that was for the kids, I thought. No sooner than I thought that, the owner of Ren’s House started explaining that it was for the kids! Then she said the magic words, in all the years she had been running the classroom, with the wood working table, no kids had been seriously injured. A knick here and there, maybe, but not what you would imagine could happen with sharp tools and small children. Let me just note that she had a full tool table, hammers, nails, saws, etc. And no accidents! That was the moment I realized it really is all in the teaching of the subject.
Fascinated, I immediately figured out how to incorporate a wood working center into my curriculum. Hesitant, but optimistic, I set up a table with plastic play tools and golf tee’s to start with. Children spent hours hammering the plastic golf tee’s into the back of our block shelf (that had pre-existing holes). Later I added cork board, and they hammered golf tee’s into the cork. Then I traded out the golf tee’s for small nails, then switched the plastic hammers for wooden mallets. Cautiously working our way into a full wood working experience. Just like the teacher from Ren’s House said, the children did wonderfully with the real materials.
Fast forward to now, as we are talking about camping and the outdoors. We decided to make a bird house. And we wanted to do it using real wood and hammers. So that is exactly what we did.
I pre-glued the pieces together, and pre-started a few of the nails that would be hammered in for the children to help guide them. But I honestly don’t think I really had to do that, because before too long they were placing and starting their own nails all on their own. In fact I think some of them would be able to build their own birdhouse or similar structure with out my input at all! (color me impressed!) The children were so into the project that we took the nails and hammer outside and started making our own tree stump of nails!
The tree house is not done, I will update this post when we paint and hang it. But here are a few shots of the tiny hands at work!
I am so inspired by this project that I am wondering what we should do next. A squirrel house? Maybe eventually the kids can make their own club house! (ok, don’t get carried away) But you never know!