Building Fairy Houses Promotes Learning, Creative-Free Play & Citizen Science

Building Fairy Houses Promotes Learning, Creative-Free Play & Citizen Science

By Andrea Caluori-Rivera
MassLIFT AmeriCorps Member at Hilltown Land Trust & Kestrel Land Trust

A few weeks ago kids gathered at Hilltown Land Trust’s Bradley Sanctuary in Williamsburg to explore the woods and build fairy houses for future trail visitors to see.

The task was simple: head out into the woods, collect items, choose a spot and start building.  Two hours later, the entrance to Bradley’s woods featured creative structures leaning against tree trunks, hiding behind rocks, or settled right on the trail.  Each house was unique and showed an innovative use of materials: sticks, acorn caps, fallen leaves, moss, lichen, birch bark and more.  While we were out collecting materials, we came across salamanders, heard birds, and observed the different textures and colors nature offered to help us create our little structures.  It was a great way to spend a Saturday morning and wonderful activity that fosters skills such as teambuilding, creative play, engineering, design and citizen science. Hilltown Land Trust’s Bradley Sanctuary is open to the public and available for you and your family to build your own simple fairy houses!

What do you need?

If you’re going to leave your fairy house in the woods, then you only need a basket/bag to collect materials.  Only natural, biodegradable materials found in the woods should be used when making a forest fairy house. Please do not harm any live trees by removing bark or limbs, rather gather these items from the tree trunks or limbs that have fallen to the ground. Remember to take Hilltown Families’ trail guides to the Bradley Sanctuary too!


While collecting objects for your fairy houses, why not be a citizen scientist and do a bioblitz too!  What critters and plant species do you see in the forest?  Have someone in the group write them down as you walk along the trails looking for things such as sticks, acorns, small rocks, bark, moss, pinecones, and lichen.  Remember to discourage picking materials from living plants and trees.  Instead look for items already on the ground or from a fallen tree.  This is a wonderful way to observe and notice the different types of textures and colors you can find in the forest at different times of the year.

Choose a spot.

Once you have all of your materials, choose a location to build your fairy house.  Good spots are usually against the trunk of a tree or against a rock.  Select a place that is easy to see on the trail so future visitors can enjoy your creation.

Start building!

The building process is a great way for kids to be creative, spend time outdoors and focus on teambuilding skills when working as a part of a group.  By working on a design, they start to problem solve and think about ways to engineer their houses in functional and decorative ways.  Encourage troubleshooting and collection of more materials if needed.

Take a photo.

Your fairy house will stay in the woods, so remember to take a photo!


Andrea Caluori-Rivera

Andrea is currently a MassLIFT AmeriCorps member serving Hilltown Land Trust and Kestrel Land Trust as a Community Engagement Coordinator.  Last year she served as a RISE AmeriCorps member at Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School in Easthampton, MA.  A Bronx, NY native, Andrea moved to New England in 2003 where she completed her A.B. in Art History at Mt. Holyoke College followed by a M.A. degree in Italian Literary & Cultural Studies at UConn Storrs where she taught Italian language. She has interned at cultural institutions such as Old Sturbridge Village and the New-York Historical Society and has taught history, culture, and farm education for a variety of youth programs.  In her spare time, Andrea enjoys writing for different online publications and exploring New England’s towns, trails, art and food culture.

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