Peter's Pyramid
(click to enlarge)
Leveling and laying the foundation while the matchbox tomb and drinking straw tunnel are set in place
Peter and his friends set sugar cube stones
Nearing the top
Shortly before six-legged grave robbers vandalized Cheops' tomb

Whenever a teacher points to a kid and says,"Watch out for that one", it's safe to speculate that this future CEO of a Fortune 500 company is bored and will make a perfect foreman for the classroom project I am about to begin.

Ellen, the 6th grade teacher at the Agnes Russell School, had asked me to explain how pyramids were built and Peter was the one to watch out for, so he was the one I headed for to lead the crew. The painstaking process of orienting, sizing and setting up the geometry for the Pyramid of Cheops, about to be built from 12 boxes of Domino sugar cubes, was crucial. Peter and his friends had to position the pyramid by finding true north without a compass, using the sun. They had to scale down the size by using ratios and proportions and built a tin foil canal around the perimeter to use water for leveling the first course of stones. The slope of the sides was determined by stringing guy wires from a paper towel tube set at the right height in the center of the base. To prevent the sloping sides from collapsing, dirt from a nearby construction site was procured and dumped inside the sugar cube walls to the level of each successive course. White glue was used for mortar.

Other kids made a matchbox tomb which could be pulled out like a drawer, painted hieroglyphics on the insides and added a masking tape mummy or two. To top it off, someone carved a sphynx out of a bar of soap and placed it in front to guard the the king's tomb, alas, to no avail. That weekend, the Teachers College cockroaches had a grand time simulating the grave robbers and future kings who stole the limestone facing stones to adorn their own temples.

I don't know what really happened to Peter and I don't want to oversimplify the problem of unruly kids in classrooms, but we should always try to motivate before we medicate and building small wonders of the world keeps minds, hands and bodies motivated.

Growing Places