Sweet development: students design, build gingerbread houses
Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Wheat Thins used for roof tiles. A waffle cone hot tub and a front porch made of those grainy crackers children feed goats at the zoo. Admiring these creations, a couple walks by the display of gingerbread houses built by the students at Donner Trail Elementary School. The woman wants to vote for her favorite house, but the ballot boxes are stuffed full and there isn’t any paper left.
“I’m going to go grab a napkin,” she says to the man as she rushes off through the lobby at the Resort at Squaw Creek.
The woman returns and crams her makeshift ballot in the box for the gingerbread house developed by the kindergarten class.
A few minutes later, another woman walks by with her two children and they point out their favorite parts of each house: the swing set made of candy canes, a picnic table adorned with a bouquet of Jujubes and a vegetable garden.
“Every time my kids walk by, they have to stop and stare,” the woman says.
In fact, with everyone who walks by the gingerbread houses made by kindergarten through fifth graders of Donner Trail School, there is a chorus of oohs and ahs.
These reactions, along with the quality of the gingerbread houses, have exceeded the expectations of Susan Laine, who organized the project for the students.
“We were trying to come up with a hands-on arts and crafts project with a lot of math skills,” said Laine, whose daughter is in first grade at Donner Trail. “The great thing is, the students did it all themselves.”
For a month and a half, the 57 students drew the plans on paper, created a model out of cardboard and decorated the multi-roomed gingerbread houses.
“They even figured out the pitch of the roofs. The kids seemed to pick it up really fast. They can picture in 3-D a lot easier than adults can,” said Laine, who stayed up one whole night, without power, to set up the students’ houses before taking them over to Squaw Creek.
The houses, which were displayed at the resort until Dec. 27, were located in the lobby adjacent to the professionally built gingerbread houses made by Squaw Creek.
“I know that my children were so proud to see their own houses next to the Squaw Creek ones,” said Michelle Reed, a teacher at Donner Trail. “It’s a big self-esteem thing for them. They are so professional-looking and beautiful.”
Also, the students faced some building challenges, Reed said. The math, for one, was very precise and challenging, especially for the younger students. Also, when the children would leave to work on the project for 45 minutes at a time, they would miss out on other subjects and they would have to catch up.
Reed’s daughter Whitney, a fourth grader, found a different aspect of the construction to be difficult.
“It was a lot of fun, but it was really hard not to eat the candy,” she said. “And the project was really hard for the younger kids, because they had no idea how to do a lot of the math.”
After the houses were taken off display, Laine gave them to businesses on Donner Summit in appreciation of their support of the project.