Harbor City International School students create gingerbread to make the gradePatience and flexibility were two of the greatest lessons high school sculpture students at Harbor City International School recently learned from working with gingerbread.
By: Esther Piszczek, For the Budgeteer News
Patience and flexibility were two of the greatest lessons high school sculpture students at Harbor City International School recently learned from working with gingerbread.
Inspired by a gingerbread workshop organized by the Sons of Norway in October, art teacher Aryn Bergsven tasked her sculpture students, who were studying architecture, with building a structure out of gingerbread.
The goal of the assignment was for each two-person team to choose a structure, create a design for it, build a paper model and then reproduce that model in gingerbread (“pepperkaker,” in Norwegian). How Sweet It Is Cakes provided the class with cookie sheets and baked all of the gingerbread in the store’s ovens.
“The challenging part was figuring out how to arrange and compose the [building] elements and how they go together,” said Bergsven. Extra credit was given to students who chose to reproduce local structures.
Kaity Hagen, a junior at HCIS, said her team chose to build the Split Rock Lighthouse because she “thought it would be a unique and complex structure to do.” The challenge, however, was in recreating a cylindrical structure out of flat gingerbread. Hagen and her teammate, sophomore Elina Walchuk, resolved this issue by building their lighthouse as a six-sided structure.
“We couldn’t use curves so we used blocky shapes,” explained Walchuk.
Another rounded structure, the dome on top of the lighthouse, also created a challenge. “We had to adapt and adjust our ideas,” said Hagen. Instead of gingerbread, Hagen and Walchuk used Necco wafers and hard candy to form the lighthouse’s dome.
“What we lacked in gingerbread we made up for in candy and lots and lots of frosting,” said Walchuk.
Of the seven structures the students created, some were local, some were invented and some were inspired by actual buildings. According to Bergsven, who was building and learning right along with her students, “Gingerbread is a difficult medium because [the structures] couldn’t be as elaborate as they had hoped.”
HCIS seniors Kyla Wehner and Aryana Buck initially chose to create the Glensheen Mansion. During the initial planning process, however, they quickly “realized Glensheen was too large and complicated so we made a house,” said Buck. “It was a really simple design so then we went crazy with decorating,” Buck added.
“The exciting part was decorating,” said Wehner, “We kept finding pieces of candy we could use in different ways.” Orange Slices gummy candy became flower window boxes and gum drops attached to miniature candy canes became lamp posts.
UMD Professor of Art and Design Alison Aune, who helped teach the workshop Bergsven attended, was impressed with the “technical and aesthetic innovation and imagination” exhibited by the HCIS gingerbread creations. “It was phenomenal because they were so imaginative,” she said. “This is a tricky assignment; this is sculpture — almost engineering. Their structures were huge. I could not believe it!”
The size of the HCIS gingerbread structures, however, provided further challenges. The large shapes required to make the structures created stability issues that required creative problem solving. Wehner and Buck had difficulty keeping their gingerbread house upright, so they used cardboard supports inside the walls to strengthen it.
Bergsven described her students’ experience with gingerbread as “trying.” Recognizing their frustration, Bergsven asked 45-year veteran gingerbread house maker Jan Gozanski of Superior, Wis., to assist. Gozanski, who taught the Sons of Norway children’s gingerbread class, volunteered several days in Bergsven’s classroom and helped the students problem-solve. “I didn’t want the kids to get discouraged,” said Gozanski.
“Jan showed us how to trim and cut [the gingerbread] to form interlocking pieces to form the structure,” said Hagen.
“If it was easy, it wouldn’t be as fun,” remarked Buck.
Of her experience, Gozanski said, “The kids were wonderful. I was so impressed with them.”
Bergsven said she will incorporate gingerbread as a learning tool in the future, if given the opportunity. “I really enjoyed the playful creativity that came with it,” she said.
The HCIS gingerbread houses were brought to the Sons of Norway gingerbread city, which is on display Friday through Sunday nights from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Nordic Center, 23 N. Lake Ave., through December 15. There is no admission charge; the gingerbread city display serves as a collection point for nonperishable food items for the Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank in Duluth.