Cardboard Houses to Curricular Concepts...
by P. R. Guruprasad
In play a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behaviour; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself. As in the focus of a magnifying glass, play contains all developmental tendencies in a condensed form and is itself a major source of development.
- Vygotsky L S (1978).
Some of us can't help remembering our school days when we used to have loads of fun during long summer holidays. We had more leisure time than the children of today: no pressure at home or at school to get "first" rank. It was very common in the villages like the ones were I was brought up, to see children playing in the green fields in close companionship with Nature. We lived in a close-knit hypocricy free world of our own defying barriers of caste, religion, or socio-economic status. We used to part only temporarily for breakfast, lunch etc.
Building cardboard houses was one of my favourite pastimes and we enjoyed it thoroughly! [Some of the best houses that I had made, found their way into our showcase or despatched to my penpals abroad, after undergoing a colourful facelift]. Well, while such pleasant experiences are a legacy of a bygone era, if brought back into the lives of our children, most of whom are exposed to no more than the idiotbox and its recent ancillary, the internet, our children, victims of the high tech revolution, can still be on the road to a healthy, educative and positively entertaining world instead of drifting along in the information superhighway with no road rules!
Well, let us get back to the main topic, viz "house building" so that I can share my ideas with you. In addition to the excitement and joy that it brings, cardboard house building can help children in concept formation and development in curricular subjects. Let me describe a method by which children can learn subjects like maths and physics. The project is meant to be done by children.
Step 1: A blue print of the "dream" house is drawn on a cardboard as in figs.1 and 2 [By the way, pictures are not to scale]:
Step 2: After the cut-outs are made, the house is "built" and painted using commonly available materials such as glue, paper clips etc. When this is done, the front view of the house will be as in fig.3:
The exercise can be great fun and can reveal the latent talents of children, ignite their creative potential and hence raise their self-esteem. Some children may like drawing murals, working a graffiti or making a collage depending upon individual taste, so that their "dream house" is "made to order" by children themselves.
Perhaps the houses can be labelled with the architect"s name and class and displayed in the classroom.
Now, for the teacher: These model houses can be used in numerous ways [as I have done with my children] some of which are outlined as follows:
Maths teacher can use them to enhance application skills in trigonometric concepts such as "The angles opposite of equal sides of a triangle are equal," "In a triangle, the greatest angle has the longest side opposite to it, "Of all the segments that can be drawn to a given line from a point not lying on it, the perpendicular segment is the shortest" and so on. Mensuration can be taught very effectively too.
Physics teacher can use these houses for teaching heat conduction and insulation, electric circuitry etc. Larger scale models made of different materials with provision for thermometer can do miracles.
The opportunities abound to any teacher who is sensitive to children"s freedom and creativity. Recently, Guy Claxton  talked about the necessity of "relaxed modes of cogniton" of "slow ways of knowing."
Hence, building houses can give relax the tired neurons of the overburdened children in this digital era!
- Vygotsky L S  Mind in Society. Edited by Cole M et al. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Claxton G  "Playing for life; laying the foundations for lifelong learning." Paper delivered at BAECE Conference Sure Start-Brighter Future. Church House Conference Centre, Westminster, London, 9 June.
- P R Guruprasad [Email: firstname.lastname@example.org]