The House that Grew Activities

The House that Grew

written by Jean Strathdee

illustrated by Jessica Wallace

published by Oxford University Press, 1979

Rachel and her family buy some land in the country, but only have enough money left over to build a very small house to live in. In Summer, this is fine as they enjoy eating, bathing, playing and working outside in the warm weather. As the seasons change however, and the cold forces them to move inside, it becomes clear that there is not enough space for everyone to live happily. They come up with a solution: build Rachel a playhouse! Rachel’s design is chosen as the best and Nick builds the playhouse himself using native timbers – rimu, matai and kauri, with a special finial on top (to keep the witches away!). Rachel loves her new playhouse and paints it using bright, bold colours. A special story which shows a family living an alternative lifestyle working together to solve problems and create a good life for themselves. Colourful illustrations give the story a New Zealand flavour as the story is set in the bush, with nikau palms and flax bushes. A sandy bay and a marae can be seen in the landscape images. Special attention is given to native New Zealand timbers – Matai, Kauri and Rimu.

Activity 1: DESIGN A PLAY HOUSE (Technology)
NZ Curriculum Level 1/ 2/3

(see curriculum links at the end of the activity)

NZC Key Competencies
  • thinking
  • using language, symbols and texts
  • participating and contributing
Activity In the story Rachel, Sally and Nick all have a go at designing a plan for Rachel’s new play house. In this activity, children can come up with their own designs and plans for a play house.

Children could work in pairs or groups for this activity.

1. Consider the story carefully and identify the main needs for the play house.

2. Discuss materials that could be used, and cost and availability of these materials. At Level 1, children may be able to give reasons for why they choose a particular material. At Levels 2 and 3, children may need to test out different materials to establish the best ones to use for the play house.

3. Children can then begin to design their plans.

  • At Level 1, the children may be able to provide an inside and an outside view.
  • At Levels 2 and 3, children may provide measurements for their playhouse, labeled on their plan, as well as identifying materials on the plan for each part of the play house.
  • At Level 3, children may trial several different plans and evaluate their usefulness before coming up with a final idea.
  • Large sheets of paper
  • Different materials for testing (Level 2/3)
Taking it further
  • Children working at Level 2/3 may like to create a model of their design (Technology)
  • Children may be able to identify the need for a new building at school. For example  a scooter or bike shelter, a playground – which they could design and plan for (Technology)
Curriculum Links Technology

Technological Practice

  • outline a general plan to support the development of an outcome, identifying appropriate steps and resources (Level 1)
  • develop a plan that identifies the key stages and the resources required to complete an outcome (Level 2)
  • investigate a context to develop ideas for potential outcomes. Trial and evaluate these against key attributes to select and develop an outcome to address the need or opportunity. Evaluate this outcome against the key attributes and how it addresses the need or opportunity (Level 3)

Nature of Technology

  • understand that technology is purposeful invention through design (Level 1)
  • understand that technology both reflects and changes society and the environment and increases people’s capability (Level 2)
  • understand that technological outcomes are recognisable as fit for purpose by the relationship between their physical and functional natures (Level 3)



  • create and use appropriate units and devices to measure length and area (Level 2)
  • use linear scales and whole numbers of metric units for length and area (Level 3)
Applications for Level 4 and above Technology – At Level 4, students may investigate the transforming of materials to enhance their fitness for a purpose, for example, waterproofing a roofing fabric for use on the play house. At Level 5, they may be exposed to a variety of planning tools and be able to choose the most appropriate for the task. They should also be able to critically analyse and justify their planning decisions. From Level 6 on, students could be exposed to seeing a project through to completion – perhaps working together as a group to build that bike shelter?

Mathematics: Measurement – At Levels 4 and 5, students can select and use appropriate scales, devices and metric units for measuring the length and area of their play house. By Level 6, they should be able to measure at a level of precision required for accurate completion of the project.

Activity 2: RACHEL’S SONG (The Arts)
NZ Curriculum Level 1 , 2 & 3

(see curriculum links at the end of the activity)

NZC Key Competencies
  • thinking
  • using language, symbols and text
  • relating to others
Activity At the end of the story, Nick makes up a song about Rachel’s new play house:

High on a hilltop

Looking out to sea,

Rimu, matai, kauri,

Guard my house for me.

Its big enough to hold my toys, my bear, my books, my bed,

and there to keep me safe and sound,

a finial overhead.

  • At Level 1, children could find the beat and use different percussion instruments to play along to the rhythm of the song. As a class, they could learn the given melody and use chime bars to play along with the chords C, F and G.
  • At Levels 2 and 3, children may be able to make up their own melodies and find ways to represent this on paper. This may be using conventional or graphic notation. They could perform their compositions on basic melodic instruments – keyboards, recorders, xylophones or glockenspiels.
  • A variety of melodic instruments – keyboards, recorders, xylophones, glockenspiels
  • Paper and pens (Level 2/3)
Taking it further
  • Children could use Nick’s song as a model for writing about another place – for example, the classroom. They could then put this song to music too (English/ Music)
  • Learn how to perform Rachel’s song using the music given on the back page (Music)
Curriculum Links The Arts

Music (Sound Arts)

  • explore and express sounds and musical ideas, drawing on personal experience, listening and imagination; explore ways to represent sound and musical ideas (Level 1)
  • share music making with others (Level 1)
  • improvise, explore and express musical ideas, drawing on personal experience, listening and imagination; explore ways to represent sound and musical ideas (Level 2)
  • share music making with others, using basic performance skills and techniques (Level 2)
  • express and shape musical ideas, using musical elements, instruments and technologies in response to sources of motivation; represent sound and musical  ideas in a variety of ways (Level 3)
  • prepare and present brief performances of music, using performance skills and techniques (Level 3)
Applications for Level 4 and above At Levels 4 and above, students are expected to refine and reflect on their music making. They will be able to create more complex arrangements and for multiple instruments. At Level 5 and above, they will be able to notate their arrangements using appropriate conventions.
Activity 3: NATIVE TREE STUDY (Science)
NZ Curriculum Level 1, 2 & 3

(see curriculum links at the end of the activity)

NZC Key Competencies
  • thinking
  • participating and contributing
  • using language, symbols and text
Activity In the story, Nick builds the play house out of native New Zealand wood – rimu, matai and kauri.

In groups, children could choose a native tree to research and report back to the class on. They could find out:

  • where the tree grows
  • how big they grow
  • what qualities the wood has
  • which birds eat the berries.

They may wish to research other natives as well – nikau palm, pohutukawa tree, totara or kowhai tree, for example.

  • At Level 1 and 2, children could find pictures in books or on the internet. Sketch and write about the special features of the tree, and where it can be found. They may also choose to present their findings in a slideshow.
  • At Level 3, students could investigate the importance of conserving our native trees, and how they are valued as national icons. They could explore the impact of both natural and human induced changes on New Zealands tree life and consider what they could do to help.
Taking it further
  • Collect samples of the different kinds of wood to compare and contrast (Science)
  • At Level 3, students could send their thoughts on tree conservation to local government (Science/ Social Science)
  • Links to artwork – printmaking or painting trees (Visual Art)
Curriculum Links Science

Living World: Ecology

  • recognise that living things are suited to their particular habitat (Level 1 & 2)
  • explain how living things are suited to their particular habitat and how they respond to environmental changes, both natural and human-induced (Level 3)

Life Processes

  • recognise that all living things have certain requirements so they can stay alive (Level 1 & 2)
  • recognise that there are life processes common to all living things and that these occur in different ways (Level 3)
Applications for Level 4 and above At Level 5 and above, students begin to explore the need for our native tree and plants as part of an ecosystem, and their interdependence with other living things.