While many of us have swapped our Christmas tree out for upcoming Easter decorations, St. David Catholic Elementary School is bringing new life into the holiday evergreen.
With the help of Bienenstock, a local natural playground company, students reused Christmas trees to build two outdoor forts on the school playground.
“Coming out of the pandemic it is so important to reintroduce the concept of play and create opportunities for different types of play during our nutrition breaks,” said Principal Julie Lamparski.
"Inviting Bienenstock to come for the Christmas tree workshop fit perfectly with this goal, as well as curriculum expectations, to create a hands-on experience that students will be able to interact with for the remainder of the year.”
“Reusing Christmas trees to make forts offers a variety of learning opportunities including carpentry, construction, planning and collaboration,” added Director of Education Jill Bienenstock.
During the one-day session, Bienenstock led classes through safety procedures when dealing with small tools, like D-handle saws, before breaking students out into small groups to saw off branches for the fort’s structure.
“Our company’s mission is to connect children to nature,” said Bienenstock. “In our outdoor environments, the outdoors offers a place of mastery for all children. The lesson also provided movement and heavy work opportunities that support self-regulation, attention and focus.”
And while outdoor play also provides a plethora of other benefits, including improving attention span, increasing language, social and problem-solving skills, lowering stress, and increasing resilience... it’s also just plain fun.
“Many students have never had the chance to work with a small tool or build a fort of this size, you could see and feel their excitement as they eagerly talked amongst each other and created their plan of action,” said Lamparski. “All their senses were engaged. When children have the opportunity to play with natural materials they generate their own ideas, which seems to fuel their creativity.”
The hope, said Bienenstock, is that these lessons will continue all winter long and extend into many math, engineering, science skills and various other learning concepts.