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Children’s summer camp creates recycled wood forts

Using donated wooden pallets, the 'TimberTown' summer campers created a village of wooden playhouses.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The sounds of tiny hammers at work fills the air surrounding the blacktop playground of the West Side Christian School (WSCS) this week.

The daytime summer campers, aged 7 to 12, showed off their woodworking talents Thursday in what they’ve called “TimberTown,” a village of little wooden structures made completely by the children.

The campers created the hand-made forts and playhouses using wooden pallets donated to WSCS. The young construction workers created the blueprints for each project, worked in teams to craft different designs and used their woodworking skills to make each one – the culmination of a few days’ hard work.

The campers also made sure to incorporate wheelchair accessibility in their designs so that no team member was left out.

Summer Coordinator of WSCS, Janet Staal, says that the idea for TimberTown was inspired by a similar experience in the Netherlands, where children create wooden forts as skill-building projects.

“The skills they’re taking away is how to use tools, how to work a machine -- communication, too – they’re not just going to start moving a pallet by themselves, they’re going to have to bring other people,” Staal says.

TimberTown students and staff say their summer camp experience is like no other.

“I love building things and just, the ability to hang out with friends and build and just talk, is fun,” says Dylan Buys, a 10-year-old TimberTown summer camper. 

Credit: West Side Christian School
A team of campers stand on their wood pallet fort inside TimberTown.

“It’s just fun. I feel like playing at a higher level. We’re not just playing fort building, it’s like we’re really playing contractor and construction worker, it’s like taking on different roles that they could have someday,” says Staal.

TimberTown camp is hoping to inspire a citywide movement of family woodworking projects in Grand Rapids area. If they have any extra pallets available for pickup, WSCS will post more information on their Facebook page. They urge more families to enjoy the fun, skill-building projects alongside them this summer.  

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