Styrofoam House

Building and constructing things inside of the STEAM room have been big focal points for most of the children that come into the room. From the beginning of the year when the room was opened, many groups of children have explored both the act of constructing and tools themselves  Some make creations that start small and change to some other idea. Others are on a larger scale and take more time to really press the idea through.  Children have an innate ability to come up with great and unique ideas, but sometimes they don't really know where and how to begin. One child in the Tapuzim (Oranges class) had an idea that he wanted to build a house.  

"How are you going to build you're house?" I asked him.

"I don't know. I don't know how to build a house." he replied back.

This child really wanted to build a house, but was not sure of how or where to begin. I explained to him that when construction workers are going to build a house or a building, they have someone draw a picture of what it will look like before they actually build it. I encouraged him to try drawing a design of what he would like his house to look like. So he grabbed some paper and colored pencils and put his concept on paper. When he had finished his concept design, I asked him to explain to me what he created. He had drawn a great big circle and said that it was his house. He showed me that the two circles he added to the inside of the bigger circle were the windows. Finally, he said the rectangle shape was the door for people to go in and out. With his concept complete, we looked at the basic shapes he drew on paper. I asked him

"Lets see if we can find things inside the room that match those shapes."

We walked around looking through the recycling materials until we came across some that matched the shapes of his pictures. The child then recreated his picture with the found items. We tested and tried different ways to attach his windows (the circle pieces) and the door (the red rectangle). We found out that nailing the pieces into the Styrofoam was the best. He was very excited to see what he had drawn on paper being transformed into an actual physical object. The time we had for the day had ended, but I assured him that he would return to finish his project.

Before bringing the child back a second time, I thought that since he had started this, it would be nice for him to be able to choose some friends to come and help him work on the construction. He chose two of his friends to come help him this time. He showed them his created picture and what he had made during the last visit.

"What else do we need to finish making your house? You have your windows, door and wall," I said as I held up and showed his other friends what he had made. 

Without hesitation one of the children said that we needed walls. They looked at what was already used as a wall for the windows and door. They brought back more Styrofoam squares. 

"We can use these for walls." said one child

"This can be a chimney!" declared another as he brought over hold a long chimney-looking piece.

I told them that we should ask our friend that started this if he thought it was a good idea to use what they had gotten. They consulted and asked if the materials they chose we okay to use for his house construction and he approved. But how would we attach the wall pieces together? Now this class was already very familiar with the use of tools and how they worked. Almost every child that has visited from the Tapuzim class has already had experience with hammering and using the screwdriver. So naturally they decided that they would use these tools to help them put together the walls. We tried using hammers to attach the pieces together with nails but noticed that since the hammers were heavy, using them on the bendy Styrofoam was not very good. We tried the screws and screwdrivers next and tried to figure out how we would connect the walls together. We observed that where the two walls were connecting is where we had to add the screws to make the walls attach. We noticed that attaching screws can take a long time as it took the 3 children their whole time to attach all their walls. As we finished their time that morning, I asked if the house was finished or if more needed to be added on. The children replied:

"We need the roof and chimney!"

On the next visit, we brought back the same child that had started the build and he chose two new friends to come help him. After he showed his new helpers what he was making and what they had already done, I reminded him that he had wanted to put a roof on. One child went over to the shelf and thoughtfully got two pieces of the same material used to make the walls of the house and put it on top of the house. We talked about how we would attach the roof on and if they wanted it to be a roof that opened to put things inside or to stay closed. It was decided they wanted to have the roof open up so they used tape to secure both pieces of Styrofoam together and attached the Styrofoam in the same manner as they had done with the walls. The last and final piece was the chimney. We had to make an observation first before attaching the chimney piece. I showed them the screws that we had been using to attach the walls together and asked them.

"Will this be long enough to help us attach the chimney to the house?"

They looked and checked. We matched the screws that we had been using and we noticed that it would not go all the way through the chimney to attach to the walls. A bigger screw was needed. We sifted through and checked in the jar of screws and found a really long one that ended up working.


As the children wrapped up the build, they were very excited to see that they had created something together as a group. This project was started by one child but had the influence of his other friends helping him. The child that originally started all of this got to play a lead role, make decisions and creatively construct an idea with all his friends. It's a great feeling for children to see themselves accomplish something, especially when this child said "I don't know how to build a house". This has been a class that has consistently been - each group that has come is - interested in the tools and construction. It is a joy to watch how these children evolved in their understanding of the tools and used this understanding to create an experience for themselves. From the previous times they had come in experimenting with the tools, to hammering and screwing into wood stumps, they were confident in using them when they had a purpose.  So it was a matter of time that an idea made its way to a bigger finished project. Now the children have a new wonderful house to play with in which they can take pride and know that they were the ones that built it. It will be exciting to see what they will want to create next!