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Alison Jones of The Holt School, Lincoln was one of the first to use Inventa. Here she reports on the project.

My class is a vertically grouped class of 28 pupils of 7 to 9 year olds. The theme for this term is "Pied Piper", centred around the core study unit for History of Tudors and Stuarts.

I have been developing the children's skills and concepts of the design process over the past two terms and this term I wished to focus upon the "making" skills of the children as they had little or no previous experience of making using woodstrips.

Within out history unit we had begun to look at the Tudor way of life and I gave different groups of children different aspects to research: the two groups of 14 children were asked to research Tudor houses - looking in particular at the construction of frames, the filling of the frames and the advent of fireplaces and chimneys. From the drawings which each child made we were able to identify common elements. We pooled these to come up with a design which the children felt able to make. They understood that we would have certain restraints eg. a crude frame would be very difficult to construct from l0mm woodstrips. It took us quite some time to come up with a design which we all agreed was realistic in terms of its authenticity and the children's ability to make.

The next step was to make a 1:1 scale drawing of the different frames required: front, back, side and roof. This I did, the idea being that I wished the children to measure accurately and they could use the drawing as an additional check before cutting! The skills involved in measuring accurately are numerous. Measuring had been taught within Mathematics last term and here was another relevant application. The skills I particularly wished to focus upon within a D&T context were as follows:

• accurate marking - use of a vertical line
• safe and appropriate use of tools
• checking carefully
• making the best use of all of the 60cm strip
• construction of a 3D frame - identification of subtasks.

The children used a cutting block to help them saw accurately: they soon found out the necessity of this when they came to glue the pieces together!

We constructed the frames as we went along as each piece needed to be left to dry overnight to ensure the frame was rigid.

The scale drawings were used underneath the frames to help with accurate placement of pieces. There were no problems with sticking pieces, which somehow were cut fractionally short, thanks to the Inventa clamps. These clamps made it possible for the children to include the beams in their frames, something which hereto I've found virtually impossible.

Once the front and back frames were constructed it was possible to begin on the sides. The front and back frames were clamped to a board to ensure they remained the correct distance apart. The sill and wallplate were then glued into place and the beam was held in place by a sash clamp. The basic frame made, the children then cut and fitted the studs - the clamps were again very useful here to ensure good joins.

The major problem, I anticipated, was the construction of the roof. Mitreing the wood was a recurring nightmare! The Inventa gusset plates are an absolute boon, they allow angled accuracy without the need for mitreing. Similarly the ridge and rafters were easily constructed from Inventa linkstrips. We chose to use linkstrips as we could weave through the holes and so attempt an authentic type of thatch.

I have been truly amazed at the quality of the children's work, bearing in mind their lack of prior experience. The quality I put down to having the right kind of equipment to promote accuracy and a precise method of working. I thought it significant that halfway through the project the children were naturally reaching for the clamps and were planning the next stages of their work allowing for drying time! Their accuracy of measurement improved markedly and they found out the need for careful checking - but then we do say that we often learn best from our mistakes! The children have made something of which they are truly proud and which matches their expectations - all too often when constructing something like this in the past, inaccurate methods and unavailability of the right equipment has meant abandonment of a project or at best a "making do" kind of end product. Certainly the Inventa equipment and materials that we have trailed have helped put an end to that and what's more have boosted our confidence. I, for one, can't wait to try out something else now . . you know those buggies we want to make next term....!

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