Kids build cob playhouse at Tilth Campus

More than 30 children helped mix cob to build the cob playhouse at Tilth Sustainability Campus. Some kids who helped are Birdie Holtby

After two months of hauling rocks, constructing walls and mixing cob with their feet, these students’ efforts have yielded a cob playhouse at the Tilth Sustainability Campus, with just one part remaining. The kids of Calyx Community Arts School need to put a roof on their playhouse, and to do that, they’re asking for donations of cedar shingles.

The goal is to create a kids’ art garden at Tilth, with the cob playhouse as its nucleus.

“The desire is to create a magical space where kids can learn practical skills for growing food and a way to build the mind and spirit,” explained Lisa Kois, a founder for Calyx.

Eli Adadow, a natural builder, guided the children through the process of design and building the cob playhouse, which is a round structure 12 feet in diameter.

“They studied bird nests and natural structures in nature,” Kois said, adding that then the children experimented with clay to see which structures worked.

The kids chose the location for the playhouse, broke ground and mixed the cob with their feet. Cob is a mixture of clay, sand, straw and water.

“We had these kids just covered from mixing with their feet,” Kois laughed.

Since the area is used as an outdoor classroom for Calyx and other students, the playhouse will serve as protection from the elements, Kois said. It will be the center of the sensory section of the art garden, which will feature stations for children to explore the five senses. There will be nature sounds, colorful, scented flowers and stations for experiential learning like an insect atrium. Work is also being done to create a food garden nearby for children to gain experience gardening. Hanson’s Building Supply donated the posts for the garden.

Calyx staff hope to develop curriculum for other home school groups to visit and use the garden, Kois said.

“We’re creating a space that encourages kids to be out in nature and experimenting with nature. To be outside and get dirty and wet and learning, playing and creating,” Kois said, adding that that’s a goal of Calyx.

Twenty-five adult mentors have been working with 33 children over the summer to build the cob house.

“The process of creating it is as important as creating it,” Kois said.

There’s a shift away from outdoor play in this society, Kois said, but projects like this seek to bring it back. Projects like this also support Calyx’s “community village” model of teaching, which brings generations together to teach and learn, Kois said.

“It’s how villages existed and thrived for centuries, but we’ve moved away from that,” Kois said. “It’s such an amazing process that they’re part of and they’re really excited about it.”

A grant from the Whidbey Island Garden Tour supports the art garden.

“It’s exciting; it’s our first grant!” Kois said, adding that is was “very validating” to receive.

The materials for the cob have only cost a couple hundred dollars, Kois said, but since the grant has to fund the rest of the garden, donations of cedar shingles or money from the community would be a huge help. They’ve had some community responses but the more shingles the better.

“I know we need a lot!” Kois said.

To donate or for more information, call 331-7621.