Scene iii: Divide and Conquer


Working in the yard has been an exciting, yet physically demanding experience. After a restful and exciting Thanksgiving break, we were ready to get back to the yard. Our next project was to complete the water feature and the tire ladder, a new structure for the playground made with three gum poles with tires spaced out between them like rungs of a ladder. We have been anxiously waiting to continue work on the water feature, with the arrival of the basin and pump.

Cast of Characters

WPI Safe House Team

Gershwin Kholer


A. and K. – A. and K. are two children who live in the Safe House. They speak much better English than the other children. We have seen them around the Safe House before, but only on rare occasions.



As we arrived at the Safe House on Tuesday morning, we saw another truck idling in the driveway. We were excited when the driver informed us he was here to deliver the water feature basin we had ordered a few weeks ago. Knowing that we had less than two weeks of working left, it was exciting to receive the supplies we needed to move on remaining projects. Everyone was eager to get started on the day, even though we knew there would be a lot of work. The yard seemed to be in good shape as we got ready to begin.


This was also the first work day with some of the older children out of school for December break. The children at the safe house range from toddlers to young teenagers, and are fairly evenly distributed between boys and girls. As we began working, many eyes were watching us, at first from afar and eventually up close. Two of the older boys even picked up shovels, wanting to help us dig holes. Working with the children was a new experience for both the team and the children, helping us to feel more comfortable and connected with them.


The planning for the day began as a flexible outline of what we wished to accomplish. The water feature, fence, playground, and garden were all being advanced simultaneously. We came up with scenarios of which materials we might have access to and made several plans based on this. The fence and the tire ladder were the two main priorities for the day. If the water feature basin was available, we would move forward with that. Otherwise, the balance beams would be our next project. Each individual project had been draw in SolidWorks and we discussed the ideal construction and materials. We decided to make robust, long-lasting structures. Any design that required a post in the ground was to be cemented, and every wood joint was to be adequately fastened. Doing everything the correct way despite a tight deadline was the main focus.

Actions and Observations

We knew that delegating work would be the best way to accomplish everything we had planned. Things got off to a great start, with Jonathan and Christina at the weekly meeting between the advisors, the liaisons, and the Safe House Team. Meanwhile, Jacob worked outside in the yard to size the existing hole to fit the basin, which had arrived that morning. Samantha and Julia went with Lance to pick up tools and supplies we would need for these projects.

Once the meeting ended, Jonathan and Christina went outside to help Jacob with the hole for the water basin and other projects. Once the basin was ready to be leveled and backfilled, Jonathan started digging a hole to cement the tire ladder posts. He got some help from A. and K. who provided more comic relief than anything else. Christina and Jacob worked with Golden to attach the hinge to the post so we could finally install the gate.

John and helpers

Jonathan digging the hole for the tire ladder with a couple little helpers

After Samantha and Julia returned home, they teamed up with Christina and Jacob to backfill around the basin we installed earlier. Once the basin was level and at ideal height, we shoveled dirt under the brim and raked the areas surrounding it. The rocks were placed back around the basin for aesthetics and to keep children away until all of the work for the basin was complete.


The new basin in the ground with rocks replaced around it

The basin team finished the same time Jonathan finished the hole for the posts, and the teams collaborated to build the tire ladder. We measured the circumference and drilled holes in the tire at each third of the way around. We drilled a tire into the bottom and another midway so the posts would stay in place while we mixed and poured the cement. We called on Golden again to mix the cement with Jacob’s help. Then Golden and Jonathan spread the cement and backfilled the rest of the hole as the girls held the posts in place carefully and Jacob monitored the straightness of each pole. Every group member and Golden were instrumental in the process. The last step will be to paint tires and install them once the cement dries. The multi-project advancement was highlighted by the completion of the fence and the promising beginning of several other projects.


The tire ladder after day one, with the posts cemented into the ground. Exhausted team members relax and admire from afar

Notes for Future Scenes

We finished the day with the tire ladder mostly completed. We had anticipated the tires we ordered would have arrived at the Safe House, but unfortunately, they have not yet. Once they arrive, we will be able to paint them and fix them to the structure. After receiving the tires, we will also expand the play area by creating a balance beam. We ordered flowers to place around the water feature, and we will plant them once we fill the basin with water. Delegation of tasks worked really well, and was a major reason that we were able to accomplish so much. This approach will be important for us as we get closer to our project deadlines.

Scene iv >>