Group build: LEGO model sukkah setup

LEGO sukkah classroom trays

buffet of sorted components, including real twigs

I’ve written about LEGO sukkahs (and a bunch of other kinds of kid-created tabletop versions), but I just realized I didn’t report about our classroom LEGO sukkah build last year.

My goal was to introduce the rules of sukkah-building in a 3-D gotta-build-it way. Students had to construct a “kosher” sukkah for a selected LEGO minifigure, and they had to do so in 30 minutes or less.

Students don’t take finished sukkot home, alas. Not even I have enough LEGO for that. But I do take a photo of each sukkah with the inhabitant and the builder.

In case you’d like to try it, this post is a record of the classroom setup.

classroom example

classroom example

1)  First, get the LEGO. My school put a request in the newsletter and via facebook and within a couple of days 3 enormous bins of assorted LEGO showed up. Heaven. Thank you generous, clutter-busting parents!

2) Sort: Weed out the wacky pieces that can’t serve as structural elements (but save them for another project). By wacky, I mean stuff for Bionicle, Hero Factory, Mindstorms, etc. Sort and keep any minifigs and minifig accessories. Those are golden.
I put all bricks (rectangle, square, round, whatever) and plates in trays for walls.
I put all long beams, bricks, plates in trays for roof joists. You need something to span the roof in order to hold up the real schach.
Truth is, I could have presented all the LEGO unsorted, but classes are short, and the kids would have spent the whole time pawing through the irresistible heaps. I know this because it’s what I would do, and exactly what I did do for several blissful hours all by myself.

I made a buffet. All components are on trays.

Trays:
1) Wall pieces
2) Roof pieces (long)
3) Schach (tiny greenery, see below)
4) Minifigures (everyone goes nuts for minifigs)

Schach: Real “branches” are best because it’s what we use on a really real sukkah. The rule is to use a once-living material that is no longer connected to the ground. The cutest mini schach is from Eastern Hemlock twigs (the mini cones are fabulous). Also cute are short twigs of Yew shrubs and the tiny new growth on Nandina (Heavenly Bamboo). All of these green things match the scale of our LEGO sukkahs. The kids love selecting branches and placing them just so.

Eastern Hemlock twigs are even better

Eastern Hemlock twigs are even better

RULES:
Walls: I made a poster with the three Hebrew letters that spell Sukkah: samech, kaf, hey. The samech has 4 sides, the kaf has 3, and the hey has 2 1/2.  These are also the number of walls allowed a kosher sukkah.

possible number of walls on a sukkah

possible number of walls on a sukkah

Size:  I was lucky to have baseplates to build upon, which give kids a sense of how big to build. To show the minimum footprint of a life-size sukkah, I marked an area on the floor with blue masking tape. We all agreed it was better to have a sukkah big enough to invite people (or minifigs) into it.

Sukkah MINIMUM SIZE

kosher sukkahs can be tiny

Without baseplates as guides, some kids will start a huge sukkah and soon realize the walls are too far apart to span with roof joists. Don’t warn them: let them figure this out. If anyone complains, remind them we are exploring, tinkering, etc., via whatever language that can take the pressure off a perfectionist.

Roof: Must have gaps to see the stars at light, but there must be more shade than sun during the day. This is from the minifig’s perspective, so students have to put the minifig inside to ascertain roof quality. Schach must be a natural material.

Decor: If time, scrounge around for tiny bits that can hang from the joists and look like fruit and veg.
I use bendy polymer clay to make the tiny lulav and etrog, but just today I saw a brilliant LEGO version. A friend’s daughter used two green 1x cylinders on a green flower pip (lulav) and a single yellow pip (etrog).

Blessings:  Before minifigs eat in the sukkah, they have to say the blessing about “dwelling / sitting” in the sukkah. Which means they need some kind of furniture, and ideally, enough to host guests. Lukily, minifigs are happy with a lone brick or two, but kids can get as creative as time allows.

third graders at work

third graders at work

SUKKAH LINKS at BibleBeltBalabusta:
• Origami sukkah for kids (one piece, 3-D, easy!)
Kid-Built Mini Sukkahs (LEGO, Lincoln Log, K’Nex)
LEGO minifig sized lulav and etrog from polymer clay
Build a tabletop or model sukkah (out of a box)
Instant Edible Sukkah, step by step pics
Make a Kosher Edible Sukkah (for groups in a kosher bldg.)
• Instant Edible Sukkah: easy tips for the disorganized or spontaneous

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3 responses to “Group build: LEGO model sukkah setup

  1. For a more exciting life size kid built sukka see if your local soda distributor or supermarket can give you a bunch of plastic soda crates. They fit together just like lego. and are pretty sturdy when connected in brick fashion. You need at least 100 crates. They dont have to be in perfect condition – great recycling. Then cover it with real schach and it is a perfect kosher sukka. You can make windows, and even furniture from the crates. Some times we had different color crates which lends itself to designing patterns, etc

    • Rivky, are these the crates that hold 2 liter bottles? Or the type that is mostly flat inside? I’m checking online to see what I can find locally… Would love to do this at school. Thanks for the tip.

  2. They are plastic crates that have sections for 8 2 liter bottles of soda . try googling images for ‘plastic soda crates’ also try imjustwalkin.com for a picture of a real soda crate sukka. try ebay. There is another example on theartblog.com. A coke or pepsi distributor might have old ones laying around.

    twenty Years ago my apt complex got a few hundred donated (by shop-rite I think) and put them in the playground. the kids played with them for hours building all sorts of multi story houses with steps and windows and doorways and bridges. … I no longer live there.

    Please email me privately if you find them and let me know how it worked out.

    Have fun!!