Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Transforming a Dead Tree into Loose Parts

We are getting ready to host our autumn potluck. My husband is in charge of smoking a pork shoulder. I'm in charge of readying our 1500sqft house for 70-odd people, including a gaggle of young children. Lucky for me, I watch the internet for ideas for invitations to create. My favorite invitations usually involve paint and/or natural materials. So there will certainly be some of both in the backyard for the children (and their grown-ups) to explore.

In the name of being frugal and resourceful, I decided to repurpose our old dead tree. My husband had chopped it down already but the branches were a mess of tangles. He was ready to throw the whole pile into the back of a truck and take it to the compost center. But before he could I had my idea. All that wood would make a wonderful set of building materials!

So I got out my massive pruning tool and set to work. In order for the wood to be useful, they would have to be the right size. I started snapping off the small twig-sized branches and putting them into a pile. Then I snipped medium-sized branches and longer branches into various lengths, making piles of similarly-shaped wood. What was really wonderful was that my children were excited to help. And their process and product are lovely examples of preschool STEM learning.

They participated in preschool engineering when they helped snap small twigs off the pieces of dead tree. They hadn't done that process before! When their hands couldn't quite manage to break the twigs, they explored preschool technology. With my supervision they used a real tool to solve the problem of breaking medium-diameter branches off the main part of the tree. Preschool math and preschool science were both evident as they helped me sort things by size.

At the end of the afternoon we had quite a collection of building materials. I was happy because I filled an afternoon with purposeful, child-friendly work. My kids were proud that they had helped. My husband was pleased that the dead tree was no longer the tangled eye-sore it had started out to be.

On the day of the party, I will supplement the twigs and branches with pipe cleaners and washi tape. My hope is that these loose parts inspire some building and I'm almost positive they will. I am curious to see what the children create!

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