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Getting Back to Playground Basics!

The Furniture Trust’s 2019 Eco-Carpentry Challenge

An old, worn fabric remnant gave nautical inspiration to our visionary team when it came time to develop a concept for the 2019 Eco-Carpentry Challenge. This piece of fabric, among many other materials, had been salvaged from a commercial office fit-out and with our team’s great imagining, soon would be taking sail with a completely new purpose.

The “Nautical” Fabric

When you gather 25 young minds (and a few older ones!) to develop a concept for the Furniture Trust’s Eco-Carpentry Challenge, this is the marvel that can be created. The goal of the challenge is to educate students and teachers about the value of recycling, or in this case, upcycling, while providing an opportunity for Massachusetts high school students to demonstrate their carpentry skills through the transformation of old furniture into new products.

The Inspiration and Build

Windover mentors, Amr Raafat and Laura Player guided the Essex North Shore Agricultural & Technical School team to find renewed purpose in the 120 pieces of salvaged office furniture donated to the school. File cabinets, carpet samples, wallpaper, plexiglass, metal shelves, chairs, rolling cabinets, and countertops provided endless possibilities for upcycling and repurposing. And what could be a better suited purpose than to create a children’s play structure from this playground of material! The team grasped onto their original nautical inspiration and reimagined that old fabric remnant as a sail for the ship that would form the play structure. After the 2019 Eco-Carpentry event, the play structure could then be donated to a local area daycare to completely fulfill the upcycle mission of the Challenge.

The instructions to the students were simple: first, students could use woodworking and metal tools to cut, glue, screw, drill, plane, and paint the salvaged materials to their project specifications. Second, there were no project requirements or themes to be followed other than the directive to be unrestrictedly creative! The Essex Tech students began by deconstructing the salvaged materials down to their basic elements. With the visual aid of a 3D rendering created by Amr, students determined how each piece could uniquely serve as a structural component for the ship play structure. The student’s ingenuity and curiosity brought these salvaged office materials back together in new forms with renewed purpose. Metal table legs became structural bracing for the swings; a desktop was hewed for a climbing structure; a wooden bookshelf was planed to create the ship’s bow; and table tops were trimmed to form the ship’s deck. In addition to implementing traditional carpentry techniques, the students collaborated with Essex Tech’s engineering department to 3D print “rock” handholds for the climbing structure.

The Final Challenge

The challenge culminated this past May at an event hosted by The Furniture Trust at District Hall in Boston. Students, teachers, and industry leaders gathered to showcase and celebrate each school’s upcycled masterpiece. The student groups presented the inspiration for their creation and discussed the building process and techniques that brought it to fruition in front of a judge’s panel. The level of craftmanship displayed in every project and the maturity with which the students presented their creations made every school an award-winner!

In today’s commodity-driven, fast-paced, digital society, the Eco-Carpentry Challenge brings students back to basics and teaches them the importance of sustainability, teamwork, problem-solving, and creativity. Windover is incredibly proud to have mentored the Essex Tech team who exemplified each of these important “basics” and is looking forward to the 2020 Eco-Carpentry Challenge!

Watch the video above to see the students in action!

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