Measure twice, cut once, but if you make a mistake, there’s plenty more wood to fix it.
Learning to work through mistakes and taking on tasks outside of their comfort zones were the key learning outcomes for Brendan Morphet’s Grade 6 and 7 class at Takhini Elementary School who spent the past few weeks putting together birdhouses.
Morphet says he tries to pick practical projects for his classes that he isn’t entirely comfortable with so that it’s a learning opportunity for everyone in the room.
“We’re trying to always push the bar a little bit higher and trying to explore areas for myself that I’m not comfortable with, so that they can see, you know, there’s mistakes, we’ve made lots of mistakes,” Morphet said.
“The thing I’m trying to emphasize with them is failure is okay. It’s okay to fail because through our mistakes and through our failures is when we actually start to learn. You can’t do everything perfect the first time and you have to be okay with that.”
Between the start of the school year and Sept. 8, the 23 students in Morphet’s class started with bare lumber and cut out the pieces of the birdhouses.
Morphet and his class forwent the coat of paint or woodstain protecting the outside of most birdhouses, opting for natural materials instead. Students in the class collected moss, sticks, leaves and other materials from the forest behind Takhini Elementary and glued them to the outside of the birdhouses. Each of them is unique but all will blend seamlessly into the forests or backyards they are set up in.
The birdhouses were near completion on Sept. 8 and Morphet said students would soon be free to take them home and put them up.
Among those students putting the finishing touches on their birdhouses on were Carter Hatch and Errol Colby. Hatch wasn’t entirely sure where he would set his birdhouse up, but thinks one of the trees in his family’s backyard might be a suitable place.
Colby said he lives on a large property that sees a lot of birds and wildlife, he expects his will also get hung up in a tree and wonders if it will see some use from squirrels as well. Both said they were excited to see birds using the houses but hoped that the birds don’t smell the glue or try pecking off the moss coverings.
“I think that the moss is just a good way to get the kids connected into ecosystem. This was kind of a launching point for me into my curriculum, which will be about natural selection, evolution and survival. So whether they didn’t know it or not, they’re building a shelter, and they actually are creating their own ecosystem,” Morphet said.
He added that the natural materials on the outside of the birdhouses would also serve as a home for insects, a fact that allows further discussion of ecosystem with the students.
Morphet said he received help from other Takhini Elementary staff members who have some more experience with woodworking. The wider community also got behind the project with all of the wood and other materials for the birdhouses donated by Home Hardware and tools were provided by Skills Canada Yukon.
Morphet received some information from Yukon Wildlife Viewing about the kinds of birds that might use the students’ houses. He said based on the size of the holes drilled in the birdhouses red-breasted nuthatches, violet-green swallows and black-capped chickadees are all likely to make their homes in them. Wildlife Viewing recommended getting the houses installed this fall to increase the chances that the birds will find them when they return to the north on their migrations next spring.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org