Building Together: Fourth Graders Study Electricity and Construct Holiday Houses

Hammer in one hand and a tiny nail in the other, Mount Madonna School fourth grader Sofia Brevis used her fingers to nimbly position the nail’s sharp tip along the edge of the ‘roof’ piece she was attaching to a small wooden house. Her mother sat alongside and held the house base steady as her daughter hammered that nail — and then 3 more — all the way in.

Around the classroom, other fourth graders, assisted by parent volunteers and fourth grade teacher Linda Pope — are engaged and building too — a pleasant rhythm of hammers, nails and wood — as 13 little houses are constructed.

Later the houses will be painted, trimmed and lit with colored lights — a bright and cheery ‘winter neighborhood.’

‘I can’t wait to decorate and put lights on my house,’ Brevis said. ‘I’m going to use my favorite color, blue, and also green and red.’

‘I liked building my house,’ commented classmate Ben Meltzer. ‘It was fun and yet very challenging; and connecting the roof was hard! 

Pope coordinates this annual activity, integrating a science lesson for her students with creating decorations for the school’s upcoming holiday concert.

‘This is our final project in our electricity unit,’ explained Pope. ‘The students have studied electricity and learned the difference between a series and parallel circuit. I love adding the construction element to the unit; it is a real-life skill that most kids have had no experience with yet. It’s also really nice to bring the parents into the classroom this way, too.’

The class also took time to honor the holiday tradition of Hanukkah — with students playing with dreidels and sharing latkes prepared by parents.

‘I like having my mom come and help,,’ said nine-year-old Ben Pearson.

‘I’ve built a rocking horse with my dad before,’ noted student Amirah Ibragimchayeva. ‘But this was really fun to do with my class.’

On December 19 at 7:00pm, Mount Madonna School will host its annual Elementary Winter Concert, featuring holiday carols, dancing and skits by students in preschool through fifth grade. The public is invited to attend. The fourth grade’s holiday village will be on display at the Concert, which will be held in the Hawks’ Nest Theater, located at 445 Summit Road, Mount Madonna. For more information, contact 408-847-2717.

‘My son was so excited about this project,’ shared parent Jen Meltzer. ‘He brought his electricity unit homework packet home last night and said, ‘I have to study for this, we have our test on Thursday, and tomorrow we get to build our houses!’ I think it’s a great way to help kids to better understand an abstract concept, by building and wiring their own house. And then, when it’s all finished and on display, he’ll say, ‘I remember when this was just a pile of wood and nails’.’


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, Marketing & Communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.