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Missouri Western State University Neil Lawley, assistant professor, second from left, checks out his students’ project Friday morning. The projects were built in a wooded area on campus for his 3-D design class.

Students in a Missouri Western State University 3-D design class showcased eight original primitive structures they built in a wooded area of campus during an open house Friday morning.

The structures served as a final project for the class — a nice break from finals week for some students.

“It’s kind of got this little childhood, magical, mystery kind of like ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ feel to it,” said Tawni Meadows, a student in the class. “I’ve been really stressed lately because of finals and moving and all that, so coming out here when I did to work on my own I said, ‘Wow, this is kind of nice.’”

Each structure was built entirely out of natural materials in teams of three to four students, who did all of the researching, designing and building.

“I try to encourage the students to research and explain the significance of primitive societies, cultures and structures, and into techniques for lashing and knot tying,” assistant professor Neil Lawley said of his class. “They also build a scale model so they can see what it’s going to look like and how it will relates to the space. (Seeing the final products today) I think the benefits have really shown through here.”

Lawley said that most of his students are used to working in 2-D mediums like drawing or using a computer, but when they get to his class they do multiple projects that are put to the test in 3-D.

“We also do a big Rube Goldberg mini-golf project,” he said. “We have learning objectives for each (project) and one for the structure project is to create an aesthetically pleasing design. But before that, it has to be a functional design.”

Lawley said the structures had to house all the team’s members, plus be structurally sound and durable. Thanks to the natural, primitive materials, the project also was inexpensive.

“Making this kind of reminded me that you don’t need to put a bunch of money into projects to make them look good,” Meadows said. “(Our group) maybe spent $6, and that was just for buying the cord.”

The groups had to use jute cord or hemp cord because they are biodegradable.

Drinks and snacks were served during the open house, but Lawley made sure no trash was left behind in the wooded area. After living in Japan for a while, he said recycling became very important and it’s one of the reasons why his students only use biodegradable materials for the primitive structure project.

“Because there is less investment into the material, then the hope is that they can be more free, and not be afraid to make mistakes. If they do make a mistake, to understand they can start over and just cut another piece,” Lawley said. “That freedom to make mistakes is very difficult to teach and it only comes with time and experience, but this is one way to kick start it, I think.”

The primitive structures are located in the woods across from the Missouri Department of Conservation offices, on the disc golf course near Hole 11.

Lawley said projects from previous years last about one season before naturally decomposing.

Nathan Ellgren can be reached at nathan.ellgren@knpn.com.