Building Newspaper Forts and Visiting Timber City at National Building Museum
In the afternoon Najwa and Nduku were headed to a birthday party in Waldorf. Wanting to get back to getting Najwa out of the house on weekends, and considering tomorrow’s Super Bowl meant we only had today, I found an event at the National Building Museum that seemed right up Najwa’s alley. Building her own fort.
I really didn’t know what to expect. Forts made from newspaper and tape? Najwa prefers lots of throw blankets, sheets, clothes, anything that can be stretched over her head. And now that she’s getting into Minecraft, her imagination for constructing her own dwelling is taking off.
We got there early, wanting to make sure we had enough time to build something before Najwa had to head out for the birthday party. We sat with one of the staff members who explained how it works. You first fold a corner of the newsprint paper, then start to roll it up, making sure it’s nice and tight. When you roll it, it goes from flimsy paper to a sturdy stick or pole. make a bunch of these, then tape them together in triangle shapes, a shape that lends itself to stability and strength.
Interesting. There were already some kids there making their forts; of course, my definition of a fort differed from these structures, but whatever. I could see how, with enough rolled up newspaper, using the roll-up method and some tape, you could build a huge structure. Made me think of the playground when we went to Wheaton Regional Park.
It didn’t take long to figure out that we weren’t going to build anything grand. When rolling the newspaper, it had to be really tight, not hollow. And Najwa was struggling keeping it nice and tight. So that we could build anything at all, I started helping, rolling some newspaper, but I knew this was going to be a short-lived project when Najwa decided to build a “pirate’s telescope” instead.
Whatever. I encouraged it. She can build a fort when she’s older; let’s at least engage her imagination.
Najwa then started talking with some of the other kids there. They were just lounging next to their parents rolling newspaper. I looked to the left and more parents rolling and taping. To the right, grandparents rolling and taping. Everywhere, it seemed, it was the adults rolling the newspaper, taping the ends to make triangles, looking at how our forts were coming along while the kids either made telescopes, waited patiently for us to finish, or just wandered off.
There were some crafty kids who got it, but for the most part, we parents kind of chuckled at ourselves for getting so into this kid’s event. It was actually enjoyable and I was looking forwarded to building a paper version of the Neuschwanstein Castle, but I could tell I was losing Najwa’s attention, so off we went.
Fortunately, it was at the National Building Museum which always has other exhibits and things to do. A new exhibit that caught Najwa’s attention was Timber City.
It’s crazy how much we take the simple things in life for granted. Wood. Who would’ve spent more than a fleeting second thinking about how it’s used in the built environment?
The entire exhibit was about building stuff using wood. Stuff as in 40+ story tower, architecturally-stunning buildings, academic buildings, etc. How using timber was safer than steel when a building caught on fire because of how wood on fire develops a charred outer surface leaving the core cooler than the core of steel when it’s heated. And a bunch of other stuff no one knew about wood and timber other than those in the field.
When a tree is harvested, every part of it is used in some way — the pulp, wood flour, cellulose, shavings, excelsior, particles, veneer, long flakes, chips [which Najwa called mulch because it looks like the pine bark I use around the house].
I can’t say I’m a tree-hugger, but I do appreciate having lots of trees around. I don’t actively read up about it, but the razing of forests around the world does make me wonder sometimes. There are obvious benefits to having lots of trees, so let’s try not to cut them all down. I like oxygen.
But this exhibit seemed to be encouraging it, in moderation of course. And it made a lot of interesting points. Trees are renewable. Young trees suck out more carbon dioxide than mature trees, and less CO2 is a good thing. Controlled forest restoration could also help prevent wildfires raging completely out of control from trees being so close to each other.
Just a little something to think about.
But the afternoon wasn’t done yet. This wasn’t Najwa’s first time at the National Building Museum, so she knew where she wanted to go next. But first, the Pension Commissioner’s Suite.
Before it was a museum, this is where a lot of money was sent out to millions of veterans. On the second floor are two small rooms, historically preserved, where the Pension Commissioner worked. Today, those rooms can be leased out for gatherings. Najwa, she just wanted to know if the fireplace worked.
We didn’t have much time left before we had to head home, but Najwa insisted on making another trip to the Play Work Build play area.
I always get anxious there because the kids have the tendency to pirate parts from each other. Kids will stack a few pieces on top of each other, building who-knows-what; wander off looking for more parts, scavenging it off another kid’s project; just to come back to find someone has scavenged from their projects. I’ve seen many kids fighting over the building blocks. Najwa included.
Najwa had a few pieces taken, while she was looking for more, but she handled it a lot better than in years past. No kicking, screaming and pouting, but it was obvious that, though there are hundreds of building blocks of all shapes and sizes, there were way too many kids building stuff for the peace to last.
Funny — a lot of the kids were the same ones who were just building newspaper forts a moment ago.
Then it came time to go. We stopped by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial across the street from the National Building Museum. Najwa was just a baby last time we took pictures at the memorial. We didn’t stay long. Just took a few selfies then headed home.