Build It!

Written by Miguel Santos
    Friday, 02 May 2014
Build It!

“Get out your hard hat! It’s time to put some materials to the test. Stretch’em, soak’em, crush’em – use what you learned to construct something (a bridge, a bird nest or a building) to solve a problem.”

This is the description for one of our school programs for second graders. We use the Three Little Pigs story as a reference. Students get to know about the properties of certain materials, then they are divided into groups to build up sturdy enough structures out of cups so as to withstand the wolves’ huffs and puffs.

Who says there are no wolves in Milwaukee? My co-educator and I become the huffy puffy wolves by trying to blow down these structures with our “kiss blowers” (a kind of air slingshot). After building the cup structures, students face one final test – applying the best properties of materials to build forts out in Riverside Park.

“Build It” may seem like just another program, but it illustrates the reason why I love to work here. Yes, it can be gratifying to help second graders learn fancy big words such as flexible, transparent, opaque, absorbent, insulating and the like. However, that is not the main reason why we are here. We, as educators, feel successful and rewarded not only when students demonstrate mastery of skills in the final wrap-up, but also when they build what I call “It” – togetherness, team work and community.

Let me give you an example of the “It” I’m talking about. On a beautiful, crisp day in the late fall, Erick Anderson and I were teaching “Build It” at Riverside Park for the Business and Economics Academy of Milwaukee. The fallen logs, branches and foliage had not been covered with snow yet, so we had the perfect building materials for the class. The students were building their forts very enthusiastically, when one of the chaperones made a comment that made our day. “It’s amazing,” she said, “I have never ever seen them working together before.” She was referring to a couple of girls who were constantly arguing and fighting in class, but were carrying those big logs and branches together as a team. More than just a fort, they were building a sense of camaraderie and trust. Building “It” with kids in nature is why I love to work here.

Thank you for your support, because through your help you are also helping kids to keep on building “It.” So, “Get out your hard hat! It’s time to put some materials to the test. Stretch’em, soak’em, crush’em…”

Miguel Santos

Miguel Santos

Miguel Ángel Santos García-Puente was born in Valdeobispo, Spain. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in English and French from the University of Salamanca, a Master’s Degree in Education while teaching Spanish at Carthage College in Kenosha, and a Master’s Degree in Spanish Literature and Linguistics while teaching Spanish at UWM. He worked as a Dual Immersion Elementary Teacher in Fairfield, California, and volunteered as a counselor at several YMCA camps in the United Sates. Miguel is a Bilingual Environmental Educator at the Riverside branch where he is able to utilize his diverse teaching experience to foster environmental literacy and raise both local and global awareness.


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