A couple years back, my, then third-grader and I built a model of an Algonquin Longhouse as a school project. This was certainly one of the most “over-the-top” school projects that I have undertaken (and there have been a few). See the post, A Year of Great Costumes for other school related projects. Still, despite the excessive effort and crazy amount of detail, the longhouse was a great project. In this particular case, and at the time, I thought I had good reasons to help out and go beyond sanity. First of all, I was not working so I had time on my hands and secondly, number two son had came to me and asked if we could build a really good longhouse. The longhouse, as it turns out, is a popular grade school project. Google it and you will find dozens of examples from all over. Our third grade teach had been assigning this project for years as well.
As an Architect with some model building skills, coupled with being a father, I hope you can forgive my natural propensity for overdoing it. In my defense, I would also ad that the child did participate to one degree or another in every aspect of the construction, from buying materials to arranging all of the final detail elements. He cut parts, made piles of firewood, glued pieces and worked the landscaping. We went to a local park to get some seeds and other dried plants to make some of the details and he enjoyed shopping at Hobby Lobby where he picked-out many of the other detailed pieces that represented bowls, urns and other things. The hardest part was keeping him interested as it was a time consuming process and he can be a little impatient (cause he is a kid!). In the final scheme of things, our model was certainly the best in the class; heck, how could in not be as it was almost museum quality. He didn’t seem to mind that the project looked a little excessive and carried traits of an effort that might be considered beyond reasonable . . . for a third grader. One possible saving grace was the fact that his teacher happened to be married to an Architect and so she probably understood that I just could not help myself and was battling forces that were far beyond my control. I know she also liked the model, in spite of its professionalism, and kept as an example and displayed it in the classroom for a couple of years.
The model, itself, is not a perfect representation of the Algonquin Longhouse but it is close. For example we rounded the roof but did not round the ends of each wall. So it appears more square edged than the real thing. Real longhouses were also longer than our model and we did not build the porch/covering element that would be found at the door (to keep the weather out). Nor did we build a section of the wall that was found around clusters of longhouses. I thought building a part of wall might be a wise move but my son vetoed that idea. See, even we are not perfect! It was also disappointing that we could not find any figures to add to the model. We both decided that using those plastic Indians (who are usually in some “war” pose) would not be appropriate for a model depicting a tranquil domestic life.
The years have passed (ok, not that many years) and my third grader had become a fifth grader and in the last year at his beloved elementary school. So, on the last day, and at the request of his teacher, the longhouse came home. I told him we should consider trashing it, after all, it won’t last forever but he would have none of that. For its part, the model is still in great shape with very little damage from its two and a half year stay at the school, which included some time in storage. So there it sits, in our basement, looking for a permanent resting space and with an uncertain future. I will admit, I did like seeing it again and thinking about the time we spent in construction. Long live the longhouse.