I found this really cool lesson idea in an Arts & Activities magazine two or three years ago, I believe before I started blogging. I have always saved every cardboard shipping box that arrived in my classroom, and also rescued ones that were discarded by other teachers. And if there was a BIG box in the hallway somewhere, perhaps from a new bulletin board, that big flat cardboard was quickly spirited to my room. I have used the cardboard for signs, constructions, props for musical productions, and everything imaginable. I always had a huge supply of it tucked into a corner of my classroom.
The original idea was for these to become haunted houses, but we ran out of time to have them done in time for Halloween. So instead they became old run-down ramshackle houses, with lots of potential for future haunting. So we didn't get around to putting raffia or straw on the ground, building spiderwebs in the windows with strings of hot glue, or having ghosts or skeletons lurking about. It didn't matter though; the kids had a wonderful time building them, and were really satisfied with their constructions. And I wouldn't be surprised if some of them became haunted when they arrived at home. The project required working collaboratively, and also demanded a lot of creative thinking. I gave very little instruction, and let the students figure out how to make the houses stay together. Here's how it happened:
The kids worked alone or in pairs; it was up to them. But even if they worked alone, there was a LOT of collaboration. I had a huge pile of cardboard scraps, NONE of it cut in right angle corners, so nothing would fit together square (I did this on purpose, to both encourage creative thinking and to help make the houses look old and crooked.) I also provided small wooden shapes, tongue depressors, toothpicks, craft sticks, balsa wood sticks, and cut up pieces of corrugated cardboard. I also provided Elmer's Glue-All (not Elmer's School Glue; the Elmer's Glue-All is significantly stronger), and lots of push-pins.
The students began by selecting a base, and wrote their names and teacher initial on the underside. Then they started to select walls, and glue. Push pins were used to temporarily hold things in place as glue set. There was a lot of one person holding while the other glued. Students had to experiment to figure out how to balance the oddball shapes and tilting walls. Sometimes, toothpicks were inserted into the corrugated insides of the cardboard to act as a peg to help hold sides together. I believe we spent no more than three class sessions building them. The first session was just to get started, choose cardboard for bases, and maybe get up the first couple of walls. In subsequent session or sessions, more walls were added, extra stories, and also roofs, ladders, porches, and other embellishments as time permitted.
This is a great way to use up some of your excess scraps of cardboard!