Surrey Planning Field Inspection Manager Henry Herbstreit is used to issuing building permits for houses – just not that many for houses made of gingerbread.
But Herbstreit had his hands full, Dec. 18, inspecting a veritable subdivision of gingerbread houses made by teacher Monique van Tuenenbroek’s Grade 1 students at Semiahmoo Trail Elementary.
His visit was in response to a letter from the students received by Surrey’s Planning Department the week before, asking for permission to build the gingerbread houses, and submitting blueprints.
In the letter, students gave staff details of construction materials (crackers, icing and candy) and noted “we will not be chopping down trees, or hurting nature.”
“The best part of it for me as a teacher,” van Teunenbroek said, “was that the kids were giggling (writing it) – they knew all the time it was big joke, and that it would make the adults at city hall laugh, because you don’t really need a building permit for a gingerbread house.”
But there was a lesson behind it all, she explained, adding that the notion came up when the class was reading a story about a squirrel who needed a permit to build a storage shed.
“One little boy, who asks very good questions, said ‘what’s a permit?’ and we got into a big, big lesson about permission and permits and all the language. It was the perfect teachable moment.”
Van Teunenbroek said the class was really appreciative of the response from planning department staff and was at work on a Christmas card of thanks.
“They just took it and ran with it and sent an inspector and a box of little gifts, and special permits – and because we said we wouldn’t be hurting any trees, they sent us a Douglas fir from the Nature Centre.”