Constructive Learning: Fourth Graders Build Holiday Houses

With his dad nearby to lend assistance, Mount Madonna School fourth grader Sammy Caudill lines up the pieces of pre-cut wood and carefully hammers in a nail, successfully connecting the first two walls of the small house he is constructing. This action is repeated again and again – a symphony of hammers and light-hearted chatter – as 14 students around the classroom build their houses.

“This is a challenge,” says fourth grader Kira Kaplan. “It is hard to hold it down and hold it still.”

“It is tricky because sometimes the nails won’t go in straight,” adds classmate Savannah Cambell. “Yes,” agrees fourth grader Riley Wagner, “but the trickiest part is nailing on the roof.”

Within an hour, and with a little help from roving ‘holiday elves’ (aka parents), a neighborhood of mini wooden houses is assembled and ready for lighting and decorative trim.

Student Ronan Lee says when his pieces didn’t quite line up, he took them apart and started over, this time successfully putting it all together. Fourth graders Sophia Craviotto and Sara Bautista say they really enjoy working with their classmates on this project and seeing the finished houses take shape.

Fourth grade teacher Linda Pope coordinates this annual activity, integrating a science lesson for her students with creating decorations for the school’s upcoming holiday concert.

“This is our final project in our electricity unit,” comments Pope. “The students have studied electricity and learned the difference between a series and parallel circuit. I love adding the construction element to the unit; it is a real-life skill that most kids have had no experience with yet. The students get to assemble, paint, decorate, and string lights on their houses.”

“It was fun having the parents come up and help, and for us to help each other,” says nine-year-old Riley Moller. “Yes,” agrees Caudill. “My dad helped us use a certain tool to straighten out the boards.”

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” notes student Kahlan Tervalon. “I enjoyed experiencing what it is like to be a builder.”

On December 19, at 7pm, Mount Madonna School will host its annual Elementary Winter Concert, featuring holiday carols, dancing and skits by students, preschool through 5th grade. The public is invited to attend. The fourth grade’s holiday village, along with artwork created by elementary students, will be on display at the Concert, which will be held in the Hawks’ Nest Theater (the gym), at 445 Summit Road, Mount Madonna. For more information, contact (408) 847-2717


Construction’ photos by Maureen Pramanik; Painting photos by Linda Pope

Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, Media & Public Relations,

Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.