Building Shelters in 5th Grade

In the weeks leading up to their overnight retreat at Lorado Taft, 5th grade students worked together to build freestanding forts of their own designs.

Science teacher James Audrain and STEM teacher JP Navin provided students with wooden dowels and rubber bands and asked them to work in small groups in the courtyard to design and construct stable structures that could stand on their own.

In practice, students worked together exploring a range of shapes to determine their relative stability and considered myriad ways to connect points with rubber bands as part of the build process. Audrain and Navin worked alongside the groups throughout, ensuring everyone’s voice was heard and that all team members felt valued in contributing to their final offering.

The objective was to task teams to build a freestanding stable structure that could accommodate one team member. Those looking for an additional challenge attempted to build a freestanding stable structure the entire team could fit in. Expert fort-shelter builders went one step further and tried to build a freestanding structure that could accommodate their whole team and be held up over their heads—a challenge that more than one team happily accepted.

Students tapped the skills they learned through this curriculum at school when they built shelters outdoors with natural materials and tarps as part of their retreat at Lorado Taft a few weeks later. 

Click here for photos.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.