At the beginning of this year I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that we would obviously be designing and constructing chicken coops, but I did not know how that would turn out. Honestly I thought I might end up with less fingers at the end of the year if I decided to try using the terrifying looking tools in the shop. Fortunately this did not happen and I am actually pretty impressed with the results.

The first thing we did was plan out our entire design, when we did this though, a terrifying president was elected president, so we were a little sidetracked and so we sort of disregarded the original design.

We began building very slowly as we were still getting used to the tools but eventually we started going a little bit faster and faster, until we were building things that I did not even really know existed.

We had quite a few issues along the way, including the inability to do math at times in order to figure out important measurements, causing problems we didn’t even realize until way later in the building process. For example, when we were trying to figure out the measurements for the window we managed to make it too short and we didn’t even realize it until after we had finished basically everything else. This was not too problematic however as we were able to cut a bit of the frame of the window for it to be able to fit. To expand, this class has helped to allow for the students to be more capable of problem solving, an incredibly important skill to have in the real world– after high school.

On a different note I thought this class really embodied the goals and mission of the Marin School of Environmental Leadership. The MarinSEL program is focused on enacting positive change to our environment and practicing valuable leadership skills, the mission is to educate young minds, showing the students different aspects of the world and how it works. It is our job as young people to learn from our surroundings and support our community in this way, as they have done for us. In the program, we focus on environment-based education and teaching students to be leaders of the community. Through our studies, we learn that the most important way to start a movement is through education, that it begets awareness, leadership, and actions of change. What I had not experienced before was actually physically creating said change. This chicken coop project has allowed for me to create said physical change which I believe is incredibly important to experience.

I also thought it was really cool to be able to experiment with design and construction this year and I also thought that it was really useful to learn each of the skills and know how to use each of the tools. I know that this is one of the classes that will help me and have prepared me to be able to create things in the future.

I have to say my favorite tool– which I hope that I will be able to use again in the future– is the grinder because of how it explodes sparks everywhere that look like mini fireworks– which I thought was pretty cool. I also really love the nail gun because it is probably about one million times easier to attach a bunch of siding than hammering it all onto the coop for eighty years.

Overall, I am incredibly impressed with the massive chicken coop that Maya, Chris, and I have worked on all year. I think that it has turned out pretty professional looking and so I am excited to see what are last finishing touches will make it look (and if all of the chickens will enjoy it).

Thank you Ms. Oropallo for teaching us all so much this year– not only about tools and how to use them but about life skills that will stick with us all forever.


  1. Madeline! I remember how defeated we felt when we spent an entire class period on those little table outside of class and just couldn’t come up with the dimensions of our coop, so yes I agree that math was not our strong suit in the class, but our problem solving skills were on point. It was truly an honor to work with you in my team, thank you for a great year, Madeline. P.S. that picture at the end is so cute.

  2. Math is definitely a struggle ahaha
    This is probably one of my only classes that teaches me real life skills that I can use after I graduate. If you like the grinder you can do it for me anytime you want, that thing is scary!

  3. Great blog Madeline! I was also really scared that I was going to loose limbs when we were introduced to all the tools. You made an excellent point about this class completely embodies MarinSEL’s vision. Your coop looks great and you all have worked so hard this year!

  4. I love your coup Madeline, and I think that this post really speaks to the effort that the three of you have put into it. Although you might have had a bit of a learning curve in the beginning, your effort remained constant throughout, and it was quite obvious!

  5. I definitely had the same thought that I might lose a finger or a toe at some point this year… but we didnt! It was such a fantastic experience to become comfortable with the tools and feel so empowered- with the shooting-sparks-grinder (my favorite as well). Lovely blog, Sloth!

  6. I second that this class is what MSEL is. You take your original ideas and create them into whatever you want. You don’t have to stay in a desk all class either your outside moving around getting work completed. I am very impressed by your groups coop you guys did a wonderful job.

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