Building a Straw Bale Bench at Brookside School

San Anselmo, California

At a nearby elementary school, EDI worked with a third and a fourth grade teacher to develop an ecological design project that students could complete in a month's time. The teachers decided on a bench building project.

Students measured and mapped the school grounds as a first step toward finding the best site for the bench. They determined the most apprpriate design for the bench by taking students' needs and environmental factors into consideration.

Next, the students traced the life cycle costs of various building materials and discovered that using straw bales (a waste product from the Sacramento Valley) was the most ecological option.

With technical assistance from EDI staff, the students staked out the bench, dug the foundation, built the straw bale structure and covered the bales with a waterproofing layer and an earth-plaster. The students finished the bench with a beautiful mosiac of their own hand-painted tiles.

"Making things from straw is a good idea," said fourth graders Rachael DeWitt and Shashona Brooks. "We need to keep all the trees so they can give us oxygen. With straw we can keep growing and cutting it to use to build with. And it's a lot cheaper."