Few rabbits are lucky enough to have their own playhouse lovingly built by Lab students with support from a retired architect. Well, two-year-old Cookie has 12 such playhouses.
Cookie the rabbit is one of many animals to call Earl Shapiro Hall home. During the school day, she’s free to explore Catie Gillespie’s second-grade classroom—along with all of its dark corners and intriguing smells.
Near the beginning of the school year, Cookie started getting into trouble. “She would take things out of garbage can and get into cabinets where she didn’t belong,” Ms. Gillespie said. “One time she even hopped up on my teacher’s chair and jumped onto my desk where my computer is.”
Students could tell that Cookie was bored. How do you keep a rabbit busy? The class came together as a group to address the problem, weighing the pros and cons of obstacle courses, mazes, and other solutions before landing on the winning idea: make Cookie a playhouse.
Ms. Gillespie invited her father, who happens to be a retired architect, to talk her class through the process of building a structure—and designing it around the needs and wants of their four-legged, floppy-eared client.
“The students noticed that Cookie likes to go in small spaces, she likes to have a roof over her head, she likes to climb and jump on things and explore,” Ms. Gillespie said.
Working in pairs, students took notes on Cookie’s behavior in their thinking journals and used them to create blueprints from bird’s eye and street views. Then they took their designs to the Lower School’s Creation Station and built custom habitats out of cardboard and glue, each one featuring its own configuration of doors, windows, and extras ranging from a roof deck to a kale buffet.
The playhouses are rotated in and out of the classroom on a weekly basis, four at a time. Students are working to tweak their designs based on Cookie’s likes (multiple floors) and dislikes (steep ramps).
But Cookie isn’t the only one benefiting from this creative project, which has emerged as a yearly tradition. By inviting the class on a creative problem-solving adventure, this mischievous but beloved rabbit helped Ms. Gillespie’s students learn valuable skills that will serve them long into the future.