I never grew up with a treehouse because I didn’t have a tree in my backyard. But I did have a knack for building long tunnels from one end of my house to the other out of large cardboard boxes and pretending I was in The Goonies. Forts of all kinds have always been a fascination of mine, and when I found out that if I recycled 458 milk jugs and bought 80 hot glue sticks, I could build a life-size igloo without freezing, the fort architect in me jumped at the opportunity. The above igloo was constructed in a child development class I took at UCLA. We used duct tape and just two hundred jugs a classmate had collected, hence the customized one-person igloo size. The actual task of finding materials for this unique fort was no picnic, but the overall result was fantastic. This project is perfect for kids and adults, because adults get to teach kids about recycling and the environment, while kids get to learn how to use their fine motor skills to build something they can actually play or read in!
Some teachers are of the school of thought that if snow doesn’t exist in your area during the winter, it’s not wise to introduce a project related to snow to infants or toddlers because they haven’t experienced the environment themselves (unless they’ve travelled to a snowy place). However, older groups who are learning about basic geography or different types of shelters could use this project to learn about the Inuit people in Canada’s Central Arctic Region, or Greenland’s Thule area.
The steps to making this repurposed masterpiece were as follows:
1. Collect those jugs! – My classmate asked some neighbors and coffee houses for their used milk jugs, then went through recycling bins. Because he only had a week to collect materials, he even paid some friends to go to their neighborhood recycling centers. I suggest that if you’re doing this project with kids or in a classroom setting, think about making this a long-term lesson in recycling. Collect your own personal milk jugs over several months! This could also be a great lesson in counting for younger groups, and you can create different types of charts of daily collections.
2. Wash those jugs! – As you collect milk jugs over time, wash them thoroughly or else they smell super funky and start growing colonies of mold, which could be a great science experiment, but that’s not what we’re going for. In a classroom setting, after you’ve washed and dried the jugs, store them in groups of ten in the corner of the classroom until you’ve collected enough of them. You may want to keep the colorful caps on the milk jugs, or you can collect them and use them to decorate the outside of the igloo. You can also use the caps for other counting exercises.
3. Build with those jugs! – At first, my classmates placed the jugs in a half circle formation, just like in the picture below. On each side of the jugs, we placed a dollop of hot glue- the hottest temperature, BTW, and stuck the jugs together. It’s helpful to have multiple hot glue guns and have teacher assistants helping throughout. Kids in a classroom can hand the jugs to the teachers, but the teachers should be the only one gluing. In my class, it took a total of five people in an assembly line to put this igloo together, but you can involve a whole classroom. Squidoo.com recommends using a cardboard base to glue the first set of jugs down, but this isn’t entirely necessary. It could lend some stability to your igloo, so I’d recommend two large refrigerator boxes taped together, which you can easily find at Home Depot, along with your hot glue gun and 80 glue sticks. Building takes time, so do it over a couple of days. And, as you stack the jugs, you’ll notice they’ll naturally curve together to create the igloo shape.
4. Sit in the igloo! - The igloo will become a great reading nook, or place for kids to explore during play time. Bring flashlights into the igloo and have the children sit inside it in the dark. The light will shine through the milk jugs and create a glowing effect. Also, ask the kids in your classroom what they would like to do with the igloo!
If you want some more ideas as to how to present this project to a classroom, check out this video featuring teachers of the Midland Christian School:
Have fun forting!!!!!