BUILDING A MASTERPIECE:

Stephanie Alcazar and her son, Daniel Rubio, place pieces of graham cracker around a milk carton to start their gingerbread house. The six first-grade classes at Desert Valley Elementary School welcomed family members to build with the children before winter break.

BULLHEAD CITY — No building permits needed. No hard-hats, either.

First-graders at Desert Valley Elementary School recently spent their last morning before winter break on construction projects of the fun type.

The six classes invited family members to the campus to build gingerbread houses with the children.

“It’s one of the best family events we have,” teacher Ava Smith said. “It brings in families that maybe otherwise couldn’t come together.”

The houses were made of graham crackers, frosting and a variety of other goodies. Builders could choose from among marshmallows, chocolates, pretzels, candies, cereals and other treats.

The project came with one admonition: no eating on the construction site.

“When they take it home, they get to eat it,” Smith said.

Michelle Edwards said the plans for the house she built with her grandson, Michael, were based on that eventuality.

“It’s called ‘put the most candy on a gingerbread house because you get to eat it later,’ ” she said.

The event, started in the classroom of Joleen Dunzweiler in 2013, is now an annual occurrence at Desert Valley. Smith said it coincides with units on winter holidays, which including reading “The Gingerbread Man” and related stories.

Smith said the event’s fun factor got a boost when the children were allowed to wear pajamas to it. She said parents were also encouraged to come in their nightclothes.

Each child also wore a pair of paper elf ears bearing his or her “elf name.” Smith said the names were generated by use of each person’s initials and birth month.

Smith’s ears deemed her “Perky Sugar Socks.”

She said that finding elf names helped some children learn their birth months.

“Everything we do, all the way up to the last day of school, they’re learning something,” she said. “(Studying) ‘The Grinch’ this week, they learned about character traits and how to treat people, and adjectives.”

After finishing a gingerbread house, each family could take a picture with it for posterity.

“Families always take pictures of the children,” Smith said. “They rarely get an opportunity to take a family photo.”

Benjamin Corona’s parents, Yolanda and Arturo, were among the family members who participated.

“We just want to give him that memory of us being there with him,” Yolanda Corona said.

Edwards said she wanted to help Michael celebrate.

“It’s so much fun,” she said. “I think it’s great that the kids get to do something like this and the families get to come and help.”

The gingerbread house ingredients were donated by first-grade families, Smith said.

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