Colonizing the Block Room: Barn, Garden and Farm, Church, and House


We spent two weeks in the block room. We built a settlement of sorts, referring to a large selection of books to help us design, build, furnish, and outfit the structures. The settlement included a farm/garden area, a barn, a church, a house, a close-up of a kitchen, a smokehouse and food storage area, a grist mill, a government buildings complex, and an overview of the settlement highlighting protection from internal and external threats.

In this post, you’ll see the first few of these.


As Tobias was building the barn, he inadvertently knocked over the whole thing while bending over to pick up a block. He was a bit surprised by how easily the structure came apart with such a small bump. Looking out the window, he noticed the familiar pattern of bricks that made up the walls of our school and the neighboring houses. The edges didn’t line up! As he rebuilt the barn, he staggered his blocks to replicate the pattern he had seen in the bricks. He tested the strength by knocking it. After this, he asked me to get the class’s attention so he could share this important finding.

Tobias staggered the blocks to create a more stable structure.

Tobias staggered the blocks to create a more stable structure.

Pigs in MudPigChickens

With help from some classmates, he made some animals for the barn.


I was taking some pictures after kids went home for the day, and found this rather macabre scene. I first thought someone had made a pig and then destroyed it to start over. But the pieces were placed so deliberately… I thought to myself, “It looks like a miniature slaughter,” but somehow didn’t actually believe that was Tobias’s intention. The next day he told me that this pig was being prepared to cure and preserve.


This group had originally built the church with no windows. Looking in through the front door, they realized it was dark inside. In creating the windows, the need to stagger the blocks, so that edges don’t line up all the way down a wall, became apparent. One student’s advice was now benefiting everyone! Building the Church

With windows, we were now able to peek inside and see what might happen in there. Aaah, reading the bible and listening to music.  DSC_0135 IMG_0971

Farm and Garden

Maya and Kian consult their sketch as they gather and place blocks.

Maya and Kian consult their sketch as they gather and place blocks.

DSC_0140 IMG_0977

This group got started quickly with a lot of prior knowledge about the kinds of foods that colonists probably grew. When they actually consuled the books we have in the classroom, though, their project underwent a major revision. It’s not that their prior knowledge was faulty, but that they needed to incorporate more detailed knowledge. As well as changing how they had allocated space to certain crops, they also developed a whole set of farming tools, visible in the second picture to the left of the yarn (AKA potatoes).



The three components of the house are the cellar (left front), the actual house (right) and the outhouse (left rear).

They decided not to build the cellar underneath the house so that people could remove the top and peek inside. Inside the cellar there is some food hanging to dry, and some other food staying cool. When we visited a Dutch colonial home earlier, they noticed that the cellar had indentations in the walls that worked as cooling shelves so they built these into their walls, too.


DSC_0115 IMG_0978

The kitchen has a big hearth for cooking. The chimney goes up through the house, and the other side of it has another fireplace on the second floor where the sleeping area is. They thoughtfully included a chamberpot so people wouldn’t have to go outside at night. Do you see the mischievous cat climbing onto the kitchen table?

In my next post, I’ll show you the areas designed specifically to handle food (the kitchen close-up, smokehouse and storage building, and grist mill). Kids engaged in lot of discussion about preparing and eating food without the resources we have today.

After that I’ll show you the government buildings and methods of protecting the settlement. These groups got into interesting territory concerning government, rules and punishments, and slavery.

My last post on the topic will include a set of short videos my students are making right now. They are using mini iPads and an app called Explain Everything to create short informational videos about their work.

Please keep coming back to check it all out!


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