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Penn Wynne Elementary School

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Penguins Get Creative Learning About Science & Service
Penguins Get Creative Learning About Science & Service

Five Penn Wynne Elementary School Penguins recently joined more than 70 fifth graders from throughout the Greater Philadelphia area participating in Habitat for Humanity's 19th Annual Build a House, Build a Dream Contest.

The goal of this fun-filled and educational yearly competition is to introduce children to what Habitat for Humanity does as an organization and inspire them aspire to participate in important community service initiatives. Although they aren't yet able to help at construction sites, students learn about the importance of affordable housing at a young age and what they can do in the future to help their neighbors-in-need.

Penn Wynne's participants - Greyson Cooke (individual), Emilia Pramatarova & Shay Langer (partners) and Eve Gamse & Victoria Legge (partners) – chose to sign up for this year's event after the opportunity was presented by their teacher Lisa Bair, who has been encouraging her pupils to get involved with Build a House, Build a Dream since 2008. Bair builds her students up to feel ready and excited for the competition through lessons on environmental issues, recycling and upcycling as well as class discussions on possibilities of how to build homes in ways that benefit the environment.

The students greatly impressed this year's panel of judges (comprised of volunteers from local architectural and construction firms) with their creative and innovative designs. The kids explained their inspirations and how they created their dream homes using everything from Legos and rainbows to shingles made of pinecones. Some focused on green technology while others prepared for potential floods as they remembered the devastating impacts of Hurricane Ida.

  • Pramatarova and Langer's design advanced all the way to the final round where they received the ribbon for Biggest Imagination! Their house featured a roof-top garden and solar panels as well as "swinging chairs" throughout the structure to help fellow children who may have trouble sitting still and need "movement breaks." The house also included both Art and Nature rooms to serve as a source of inspiration for its inhabitants.
  • Cooke, whose creative entry earned him the Fan Favorite designation from judges, chose to make his house out of a tricky-to-construct material - popsicle sticks. His dream home featured a glass roof and open-floor concept to help save on electricity and also included a roof-top garden and rain barrels to capture water to hold for later use on lawns, gardens or indoor plants.
  • Gamse and Legg's innovative home focused on using recycled materials. For example, their house featured sustainably-sourced items such as a bunkbed made from scraps of wood, a chair made from an old ink pad and walls built from old school binders.

"I am incredibly proud and impressed by the students' hard work and dedication to this project," said Bair. "In class we have discussions about real-world issues for which the students show a true passion. It was amazing to watch the students be able to imagine a 'dream house' that would help with some of those issues and communicate their visions to the judges."