A treehouse of learning

C. Rama Devi

A treehouse in a school? Yes, it most certainly is possible. When a couple of my teachers and I were discussing what else we could do to help our students connect with nature, this novel idea came to mind. We already have many trees, plants and even a few animals in school to educate our students about nature, but I wanted to do more and the treehouse seemed like a beautiful and exciting idea.

Once we decided to work on the project, we invited a professional familiar with child pedagogy to refine the idea. My teachers also felt that involving students will not only help them own this project but also teach them things like teamwork, leadership, adaptability, accommodative skills and empathy, apart from, of course,enhancing their love for the environment. Around 15 students from grades 8, 9 and 12 with diverse skills came forward with stupendous enthusiasm.

Under the guidance of P. Vishnu, Manager Operations, Erudite Adventure, the children first discussed how to go about constructing the treehouse, what problems could come up in future and how to solve those problems. After this, the children created different models of the treehouse. The children, the teachers in charge and I went over the pros and cons of each model before finalizing one. For everyone involved this was an experience in learning by doing and reflection.

Then it was on to the field. Children marked the location, dug the ground, and fixed logs firmly to make a strong platform. With all the appropriate dimensions, they completed the task of building the treehouse in 25 days. The project was action-centred, where everyone played a vital role. The children also designed a suitable logo for the treehouse. This was a joyful learning experience for everyone in the group and was a fruitful teamwork between teachers and students.

We worked on the treehouse during the summer break and when school reopened for the new academic year, all my students were excited to spend time in the treehouse. I asked my students what about the treehouse excited them the most. Some of them replied it was the joy of sitting high above the ground as it gave them a superman feeling, for some others it was the chance to connect with nature and for yet others it was simply the joy of reading their favourite books with friends in the treehouse. We restricted entry to six to eight for small kids and grown ups to four at a time so as to avoid crowding.

The treehouse was inaugurated on 17th June, 2019. My objective was fulfilled and I am immensely happy to see joy in the eyes of the children and receive feedback from them. It was a dream come true!

Responses of students

Team Tree House
Team Tree House included 15 students of classes 8, 9 and 12. The team put in their best effort to realize the project. While working on this project, we had a lot of fun and by the end of it all everybody was proud and happy for the hard work we had put in.

We took up this project during the summer of 2019. It was supervised by Vishnu sir who is a certified experiential educator, our principal ma’am and our teachers, Mrs. Kameshwari and Ms. Urmila. During this project, we learned many things and developed quite a few skills. Building the treehouse taught us that a group project is successful when there is teamwork and cooperation among the group members. Apart from the educational benefits of this project, we also had a lot of fun. From creating the sketch of the house to painting it, the members of the team found it very interesting. We interacted with one another amicably and made many friends. Our team developed a strong bond and we look forward to more such activities in the future.

Pooja and Roma, Class IX

The treehouse project in our school last summer was a great experience. It changed my thoughts about group projects, improved my speaking skills and taught us teamwork.

Vishnu sir, who was our mentor, guided us through this project. He never got irritated when we did things wrong. He said one thing which was really effective and helpful, and will always be with me. It was, “Mistakes once made shouldn’t be repeated.” Hence it is necessary for us to learn from our mistakes.

I thank principal ma’am for such a lovely opportunity, learning experience and especially for such a great summer.

Nainika Potunuru

Our foray of building a treehouse started with a call from our senior principal, Rama Devi madam. She mentioned about the summer project of building a treehouse on the campus. The excitement in her voice was enough to get me up and excited to be a part of the project.

It started in the month of April 2019 when we convened in the school. We had a brainstorming session facilitated by Vishnu sir, where we discussed the 5Ws and 1H – What is it we want to build, when would it need to be ready, where would it be built, who needs to be involved, who will do what, and how will it be built, how will it be presented to the students, teachers and the school fraternity.

After an initial discussion we went around the school premises and scouted the sports ground, main block, primary block, hostel area for the right location to build the treehouse. After careful examining, we decided to build it near the swimming pool in the primary block. Vishnu sir said that the design was up to us (the team). Each one of us was to come up with a design which was both appealing and easy to build. Most of the team members drew a treehouse on a single tree. My design had a treehouse connecting two trees. Vishnu sir asked me to draw my design on the board and present it to the other members of the team.

We all discussed the pros and cons of the design and once everybody liked it, the design was finalized for execution. Then we went on to make a 3D model for realization. Now the concept was ready, the location was identified. Next we went to the site and took the measurements. The wood was cut accordingly and locations were marked for footings. Then wooden planks were placed to create the floor and wooden stairs was made for climbing up the treehouse. The stairs led to an open-roofed antechamber and sitting room which were connected by a bridge. The roof of the sitting room was made and the treehouse was fenced. The exterior of the sitting room was colourfully painted by the team and that was a fun experience. Gradually, it progressed to become a full and complete treehouse. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Jubliee Hills School (Vidyashram) had its first ever treehouse.

Soon the summer holidays came to an end and school reopened. We all were so excited to present this project to the school. On 17th June, 2019 it was inaugurated by the senior principal, Mrs Rama Devi along with Vishnu Sir, the Tree House team and teachers.

It was a wonderful experience of taking an idea from visualization to actualization and teamwork. I am very thankful to my principal for giving us this opportunity. I also express my gratitude to Vishnu sir for guiding and mentoring us throughout the project. It was a recreational and adventurous experience for me and I took home a lot of memories and learning.

Manav Pardasani

The author is the former Sr Principal of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Public School, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad. At present she is the Director (Academics) Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Hyderabad Kendra. She can be reached at [email protected].

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