School News

Class of 2016 Senior Project: Thoreau's Cabin
Posted 07/28/2016 02:42PM

Ninth Graders Build Replica of Thoreau’s Cabin

From a site on the hill above the soccer field came the sounds of hammering and sawing this spring. Rising from the ground was a small building that replicates the tiny home “where I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond.”

The words are Henry David Thoreau’s. He lived in that 10 x 15-foot cabin on Walden Pond in Concord for two years in the mid-1840s. Some call the cabin a “wooden inkwell,” for from it flowed the words that filled Thoreau’s journals and became the American literary classic, Walden.

Constructing a slightly smaller replica of the cabin was this year’s Senior Project, overseen by John Fitzsimmons. Ninth graders had explored Thoreau’s writing and philosophy last fall in their English classes. This led to a study of the “tiny house movement,” during which the boys were asked to ponder what it was to live “simply and deliberately,” which Thoreau exhorted his readers to do.

Most of the building, in which the majority of ninth graders participated, was done in the Fenn woodshop, in sections. Once the house was assembled outside, the group shingled the roof and walls, cut the rafters, and finished the interior, sometimes using early tools. John called the project “an epic odyssey of creation and community.” Ninth grader Tad said it was one of his most memorable experiences as a student here. “Working on the roof shingles was the best part. Perched up there I could see the whole school and think about what an incredible experience my years at Fenn have been!”

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