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Mudbrick making a hit with St Gerard’s youngsters

The Central App

Anna Robb

19 March 2024, 4:45 PM

Mudbrick making a hit with St Gerard’s youngstersSt Gerards School year five students (from left) Annie Lochaden, Caitlyn Brown and Jahleigha Smart (all aged nine) making the mudbrick mix. PHOTO: The Central App

Twenty three St Gerards School students learned the art of making mudbricks during a workshop at Alexandra's historic Vallance Cottage yesterday.

Students had to carefully measure four cups of sand, two of clay and then a handful of straw, add a little water, mix well and then fill a brick mould. 

The mud was compacted, smoothed off, the sides of the mould were hit with a piece of wood and then with a gentle shimmy and shake the frame was removed to reveal their brick.

Central Otago REAP enviroschools facilitator Lucy Francke guided the morning workshop and said she was impressed by the focus and diligence of the students. 

Lucy explained the mudbrick making process and helped if anyone needed it. 

The students worked in small groups to make a mudbrick each. Pictured are (from left) Tommy Ryan and Brody Gee (both aged 10) with their bucket of mud.

More than 150 Central school children will experience pioneer-style building in a series of mudbrick-making workshops at Vallance Cottage Reserve this week.

Mac Cosgriff and Matthew Sheehan (both nine) filling their mould with mud.  

Lucy is thrilled to have so many children involved.


“Enviroschools is a holistic action-learning process, engaging young people in exploring their environment and participating in the life and development of their place. 

“Learning in and about Vallance Cottage and earth building techniques is an engaging, hands-on experience for our tamariki to connect to our history and take action for their future.” 

The children got to take their mud brick back to school to dry, and use however they wanted.

Lucy said some schools might make a mini mudbrick wall, or children could take them home to share with whānau. 

Along with the brick making they toured the cottage and imagined life in the 1890s. 

Nine year old Teo Leyser was the first to complete a brick from the group. 

Central Otago District Council property and facilities officer Bex Snape said with the 30th anniversary of Vallance Cottage being saved from demolition fast approaching, the workshop was a way to celebrate the historic building’s survival.

The Vallance Cottage working group organised mudbrick moulds for the children to use this week leading up to the Otago Anniversary Weekend, and for the public open day on Sunday March 24, 10am to 2pm.

The working group first got the idea because of the ongoing maintenance that needs to be done to future-proof the cottage.

“[The cottage is] mostly made of the original mudbrick, and while it is a durable building material, it is vulnerable to certain climatic conditions, such as excessive damp or the presence of water.

“It is good to give children and the public an appreciation of what goes into conserving this type of building, and who knows, we may be breeding a whole generation of mudbrick makers who want to be involved in Vallance Cottage’s future.”


The Earth Building Association of New Zealand (EBANZ) is pleased to support the project in collaboration with Enviroschools, in bringing the history of earthbuilding alive to both local school children and professionals in these workshops.


"Earthen building techniques have been used successfully for thousands of years and they are even more relevant today as we strive for a zero-carbon construction industry,” EBANZ Chairperson Delia Bellaby said.

“These simple materials also perform really well from a building science perspective. At a purely human level, they create healthy, beautiful buildings that people thrive in."

Anyone can have a go at making a brick at the open day on Sunday, March 24. 

PHOTOS: The Central App