128 to be exact
We sewed and sewed 'til our fingers exploded!
We made our home out of paper bags
But not from skins of buffalo
We Ralphed and Gelsoned and Trader Joed it.
We used twine instead of sinew
Metal needles instead of bone
Leave your matches outside when you
Step into our paper home:
- from The Tipi Song
It is definitely not a project for the fainthearted! Picture desks covered with piles of brown paper grocery bags and a roomful of children threading needles, measuring seams, and sewing bags together in groups of two, four, and eight. The challenge of creating a completely handmande, life-size tipi over 6' high and 12' in diameter seems daunting - but somehow it all works!
The Willows' very first tipi was created in 1997. A rainy El Nino winter and bad weather forced the children inside during recess and lunch day after day. (Remember, this was when there was only one building and no gym where kids could blow off steam!)
"Let's make our own tipi," suggested one third grader. Together, they discussed the materials needed (we can't use buffalo skins, so why not paper bags?) and the steps to take (let's make small rectangles and piece them together into bigger rectangles).
That morning, the students also presented the very first performance of "The Tipi Song," a staple of The Willows "songbook" that third graders have sung at every Step-Up ceremony for years.