Teamwork & Timbers

MBPN’s Teamwork & Timbers program provides a one-of-a-kind learning opportunity for youth to experience a traditional community barn raising that was common in Michigan communities during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Similar to husking bees, quilting bees, and other shared work activities, neighbors depended upon each other to accomplish what they could not do alone.

Students of all ages are invited to help erect a quarter-scale, timber-frame model barn. These 3-D hands-on, life-size puzzles routinely travel to classrooms and events to demonstrate historic construction techniques while challenging students to use their math, science, and engineering skills. And of course, learn to work as a team.

Teamwork, Timbers and Teens at MSU Grandparents University

Having a group of 12- and 13-year-old boys and girls learn about “purlins,” “bents” and “tie beams” is somewhat unusual in this day and age, but the youngsters shown above at the MSU Grandparents University Teamwork & Timbers class learned those terms with gusto. In the space of an hour and a half, they built themselves a model timber frame barn.

At Grandparents University held annually in late June, grandchildren ages 8-13 spend three days attending classes to explore hitherto unknown worlds and learn new skills. They also get to sleep in a dorm, eat in the cafeteria, and bike-ride the massive MSU campus.

This year two sessions of Teamwork & Timbers were offered as one of the new skills for kids to consider. MBPN board members Tom Irrer, Clare Koenigsknecht and Keith Anderson, assisted by Bill Koenigsknecht, led the students. The teams assembled each of four bents and became literal “barn raisers” as each was lifted, and then pegged to keep it in place.  

Whether or not these young people pursue a career in construction or architecture, they have gained some insight into how these grand old timber frame structures were built 150 years ago, the tools that were used, and maybe an appreciation for the barns of our agricultural past.

Teamwork & Timbers Event Schedule

The Teamwork & Timbers program is taking bookings for 2024. Contact MBPN to ask about scheduling T&T for your group.

2024 Schedule:

  • Aug. 24: Thumb Octagon Barn (Tuscola County) – Kids 10 and up erect a model barn that is on display during Fall Family Days Sept. 7-8.

2023 Schedule:

  • January: Architecture Program at Andrews University (Berrien County)
  • April 29: Spring Plow Day at Tillers International (Kalamazoo County)
  • June 28: Grandparents University at MSU – Atrium of Agricultural Hall
  • Aug. 12: Thumb Octagon Barn (Tuscola County) – Kids 10 and up erect a model barn that is on display during Fall Family Days Sept. 9-10.
  • Oct. 8: Pioneer Day at Waterloo Farm Museum, Grass Lake

Past Events

  • Nov. 7-12, 2022: Association for Preservation Technology International (APT) Conference in Detroit 
  • Oct. 1, 2022: Heritage Festival at Meridian Historical Village
  • Aug. 13-14, 2022: Dexter Daze
  • April 30, 2022: Tiller’s International Plow Day

The Teamwork & Timbers program has also traveled to Michigan State University for 4-H Exploration Days as well as other school programs, festivals and agricultural conferences around the state. 

Download the Teamwork & Timbers venue brochure for more information.

Kids help build Teamwork & Timbers model barn at the 2019 Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference.