We handed in our Social Studies project yesterday, the two youngest and I. It was a pioneer village. With a Science component. Parents were encouraged to help. This was to be a learning experience.
The assignment said we had to have a certain number of buildings (9), listed what they were to be, arranged in a village setting (on a sheet of cardboard that once used to house a large pepperoni pizza), and it had to be structurally strong enough to withstand the wind of a standard hair dryer. And there is to be a presentation. We had one month to complete the task; it was due today.
Unfortunately for my two girls, Mommy didn’t read any of that. All Mommy saw was “Build a Pioneer Village.”
And we were off!!
We started Friday right after school. We headed down to the dungeon of Mommy’s cool stuff and scrounged for everything and anything that we could build buildings out of: extra (new) pizza boxes, pipe cleaners, markers, popsicle sticks, glue gun and a million glue sticks, even some Christmas garland that was supposed to look like green foliage. Sort of.
We filled a laundry basket with stuff and hit our eight foot long kitchen table.
Excitedly, we started pulling everything out. Where to start, where to start… The girls had seen this before, but had never been invited to join in. They were pumped!
“Okay,” I started, “we need a plan.”
We laid out our village on a sheet of 8-1/2 x 11, coloured it in roughly, decided on our buildings and where they would go. We threw in a river, with a bridge. “Ha, Ha!” I declared loudly! “This is going to be the best pioneer village! Ever!”
The girls were beside themselves.
We started with the sawmill.
As a trained architectural designer, I live for this stuff. Sure, I build a lot of my own furniture and am constantly fixing/creating/designing something. But this was my specialty. I was going to kick some ass on this project!!
So I designed the saw mill. To scale. One quarter inch equals one foot. The girls kept calling it a ‘grist’ mill. I don’t know what that means, but I didn’t care. In the end, the sign on the front of it reads ‘SAWMILL.’ I cut it out of cardboard, all in one piece, folded it perfectly, taped it together neatly, like someone had intended it to go together just so. I built a wheel out of two pieces of round cardboard and joined them with toothpicks. Then I skewered it into the wall so it would turn. I created a roof that would overhang far enough to allow horse and buggy underneath and attached it. The girls squealed with delight. Their trust factor rose 200%!
“That’s amazing, Mom!!”
Then the reality hit.
I had to hand my little building over to them to ruin. Alright, fine. “Decorate.”
They took magic markers to it and gave it some windows and doors, labeled the sign, and drew on the shingles. I guess it didn’t look too bad.
So we got to work on the Blacksmith’s shop. Different design. Looked great. Threw in a smoke stack for his fire, complete with polyester pillow fluff coming out the chimney looking exactly like smoke! And the girls didn’t ruin that one too badly, too.
On to the Cobbler’s hut, smaller, more intricate.
The Church. Okay. Slow down a minute. This has to be good.
I turned the cardboard over so the clean white side would be the outside walls. I realized that the more artistic of the two was hooked when she announced that she wanted to design props for the inside. She wanted to make a woodstove and soup pot, bench seats, the Union Jack. I was impressed. Almost flattered.
So I created a removable roof and let her go to it. While she toiled at her miniature church/school house, I worked on the steeple, added a bell, and just like that, the most amazing little church you ever saw.
We continued on over the next two days, cutting, gluing, taping, drawing. By Sunday afternoon, we were putting on the finishing touches – town signs, trees, a water trough for the horse, grass. We were about to declare its completion when some unthinking family member walked by and mumbled, “What? No outhouse?”
There is now an outhouse located right behind the church.
I made everyone else keep their comments to themselves after that.
We announced the completion of our first pioneer village with pride. We had passed an enjoyable weekend creating something from scraps and were grateful for the experience after all.
It was then that I read the assignment and realized that we hadn’t included half of what we were supposed to, and that half of what we had included, wasn’t part of the assignment. But we didn’t care. We weren’t concerned a lick about the mark. We had created a masterpiece.
When I took the model to the school, the other kids wondered at the size of our garbage bag covered project. I explained that the sisters made one big village instead of two little ones. They all nodded, seeming satisfied that we had done enough work.
And as the village was unveiled – revealed to the rest of the class, the pride really sunk in. We had done a great job.
But it wasn’t until I was walking out the door, when I heard my daughters exclaim proudly to the other kids that their project was the best in the class that I had to laugh.
I know I over did it. And I’m sure there will be a lot of kids in that class who will wish their pioneer village was as good as ours. And maybe we’ll get an ‘A.’ But the good Lord knows there have been plenty of instances when my kids absolutely did not have ‘the best in the class…’
But what I learned from my project was that sometimes being forced to do something you never take the time to do, can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. I thanked the teacher for the opportunity.
And I learned that you can teach your kids an awful lot just by being next to them and sharing something special.
But mostly, I realized that, no matter how old you are, or how far you’ve come, it still feels really, really good to beat the heck out of all the other kids in grade three. (We just don’t rub their noses in it anymore…)