fort building educates

Gathering up scraps of plywood, sticks and stones, my son heaped them over a hole in the ground. All through spring break, he arranged the wood. Thursday afternoon, he asked me to “Come see.”
I went, “Wow! What a lot of work. Very interesting.” He sighed proudly over his heap of wood that looked like a shack after a tornado: His first fort.
He worked on it weekend until summer break gave him time to build every day.
By the middle of June he had a lean-to from the small trees that had died from the lack of sunlight. After shaking them loose from the ground, he arranged them in a teepee around a live tree. With nothing to secure them, the limbs balanced precariously.
In late June, he built a box-shaped fort with a flat roof. Confident of its strength he invited small kids to sit on it while he took their picture. A much bigger boy saw the little ones and insisted, “If they can do that so can I.” In spite of protests, he defiantly climbed on top and sat down.
The whole thing collapsed around him.
Through the first part of July, the fort builder dreamed of a real place: a log cabin with a stone base for drainage and sand floor for comfort. With his brother, he dug a shallow pit that was wide enough for a couple people. Piling the wood around the pit was easy, but they could not figure out how to build a roof. It was never completed. The wood was salvaged for other forts. A rope was suspended from the tree limb over the pit for swinging and piles of pine straw were arranged for cushioning daring jumps off the rope.
By the middle of July, he tired of balancing shifting boards and limbs. He came in one afternoon, red faced with heat and frustration, “I need some nails.”
He got he nails. The nails forced the wood into subjection, but the wood did not fit. He borrowed a hand saw and cut limbs and boards to fit.
A week later, I found him poring over his dad’s handyman’s repair and carpentry book. For days he studied descriptions of the various tools, their uses and the basics of building. Then he disappeared into his dad’s shop and began trying out the various hand tools in his dad’s shop. His dad decided it was time to show him how to use the power tools.
The carpentry book was back on the shelf the first August and he was in the woods building. This time he scoured the woods for extra, long branches, hauled them to his new building site, borrowed the heavy twine from the shop and planted the limbs in parallel lines. He tilted the tops together and tied them to form an A-framed fort: Tall enough for a child to stand in it and sturdy enough to resist windy days and invaders. It was his final fort before school began.
The next day he stayed inside. Using his father’s tools, boards and nails, he transformed our attic crawl space into the ultimate kid’s club house.
Someone was elected president, rules of order, behavior and activities were outlined.
His season of fort building had ended.