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CAUTION: Treehouse Architects at Work

At the heart of Villa’s STEAM initiative is Project Based Learning. It’s not merely “doing projects.” It’s a way of educating children that sees them as investigators who explore difficult questions and critical thinkers who learn to make connections across subject areas.

The idea for a Villa Treehouse came from our students in a campus-visioning process with the University of Washington. Our proposed treehouse became a launching point for a special focus in the 7th grade, where students:

  • learned about the biology of tree growth
  • explored the dynamics of how structures—a tree and a building—work together
  • learned about the considerations involved in choosing appropriate trees and siting a treehouse
  • gave their input for what elements were desired in a treehouse
  • designed and created their own treehouses

Project Objective & Learning Standards

Objective: Students will be able to design and create a treehouse to scale, gaining real world knowledge of the importance of math, learning how math is applied in architecture, be able to use and understand scale factor and circles, and increase their group collaboration, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills.

Learning Standards covered:

  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.7.G.A.1 Solve problems involving scale drawings of geometric figures, including computing actual lengths and areas from a scale drawing and reproducing a scale drawing at a different scale.
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.8.G.A Understand congruence and similarity using physical models, transparencies, or geometry software.
  • CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP5 Use appropriate tools strategically.
  • CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP1 Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

Project Timeline

Wednesday, Jan. 27: Project introduced
Students hear about the project and meet with Villa arborist Scott Baker, treehouse expert Bubba Smith, and their teachers. They examine the treehouse site and learn more about what conditions make certain trees appropriate for treehouses.

Monday, Feb. 1 - Tuesday, Feb. 2: Brainstorming 
Students gather into groups and begin brainstorming. Students are sent a set of links with ideas. Students must complete a project proposal, a scale factor graphic organizer, and a sketch.

Wednesday, Feb. 3 - Friday, Feb. 5: Creating Blueprints 
Students create blueprints (using software, paper, or both) for the footprint of their treehouses and for the inside design.

Monday, Feb. 8 - Friday, Feb. 26: Building the Structures 
Students work on creating the structure to scale. Making sure to measure along the way to ensure that their project is the appropriate size. Daily log completed.

Monday, Feb. 29 - Wednesday, March 2: Preparing Presentations

Thursday, March 3: Final Presentations 
Presentations to demonstrate mastery of process, design, and construction.

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