Student-Built Nine Square Court




About: I'm a middle school science teacher going on 17 years in the classroom. I've taught 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. I'm constantly looking to improve my instruction and Instructables is one of the places I sear...

This is a nine square court built by students, to be played by students. This project involved estimation, research, measurements, blueprints, artwork, protective equipment, power tools and teamwork!

My seventh graders built this outdoor game for their lower school "little friends" (grades 3-5). Rules for the game are easy to follow, the game is fast paced, and 9 kids are playing at a time so it is very inclusive. The game involves hitting a ball (volleyball or beach ball) through the square above you and into another player's square. Full game rules can be found at the end of this Instructable.

I have been teaching 7th grade science for a pretty long time and the projects that keep students engaged include ownership, problem solving, and power tools. This lesson includes all three. I love teaching young people how to work with their hands and to take an idea from a brainstorm to a tangible product.

Although I don't have state standards attached to this lesson, the best lessons are hard to put in a box and the skills gained can't always be translated into a number with subsections.

This lesson is intended for 7th-9th graders. Luckily, my students initiated the idea. If the teacher suggests the idea, It should start with "inquiry". Here's a possible introduction: I want to build a 9-Square court at our school. I need your help. What would we need to do in order to build one at school?

Record student ideas: Will most likely include pretty broad ideas at first, but with some help they can narrow down their ideas into smaller chunks that student teams can be responsible for.

Where will we build it? Where are we allowed to build it?

How tall should it be? What size are the squares? Who will be playing?

How much PVC will we need? What will it cost? Where should we order the materials?

Lesson Objectives: Students will demonstrate ability to...

estimate, research, plan, draw scale models, argue an idea (be persuasive), compare and contrast, measure, communicate with adults, safely use a compound miter saw (or hand saw), calculate: perimeter area, and linear feet, and do a cost analysis.

Because this was built for younger children and the pipes came in 20' sections, we decided to make our grid 6' tall and our squares 4' x 4'.


2" PVC pipes (220 linear feet) this can easily be scaled down to use 1.25" diameter pipe to make it more cost friendly. We we're lucky enough to have a local plumbing supply company donate the pipe for our project.

We ordered our connectors from Greenhouse Megastore. They have all the connectors you'll need and finding it on the site was super easy.

5 way connector (x4)
3 way connector (x4)
4 way connector (x8)

Compound miter saw
Tape measure
Writing utensil
Rubber mallet
Screws and a handheld drill (optional)

Teacher Notes

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Step 1: Research Your Idea

Once the kids have brainstormed a few potential ideas, it's time to break them into research groups. Having a way to document the process will make the persuasive presentation portion of the assignment much easier.

After researching, many students came across this very helpful Instructable. We reviewed their plans, weighed the pros and cons, analyzed our budget constraints, drew up our own blueprint, debated, proposed a few site locations, and presented our ideas to each other and finally to the maintenance department.

After getting the thumb's up, we called a local plumbing supply company. When the owner discovered it was a student-led school project, he generously donated the PVC pipe to their cause.

Next, we ordered all of the PVC connectors.

Finally, we waited for the materials to be delivered.

Step 2: Measure Twice, Cut Once

The students realized the importance of "not making a bad cut" since we only had enough materials to get it right on the first try. Any time you're teaching a young person to use power equipment you must teach safety first. They should know exactly what to expect and have all of their questions answered before starting. I also made this a "challenge by choice". Everyone was encouraged to try, but no one was forced to use the saw. They also had some fun in the process!

The students were also responsible for figuring out the most efficient way to make the cuts with the least amount of waste.

Once a plan was agreed upon, we carried our material to the shop where the kids measured and cut the pipe to length.

Step 3: Dry Fit and Assembly

First, we laid out our 4' sections to create the 9 square template. The connectors were carefully placed into the correct positions/orientations. We found an open space in the grass behind our classroom to assemble the squares.

Next, a rubber mallet was used to help seat the pipes into the joints. A few students would stand on the connectors while a classmate used the rubber mallet to bang them into place.

Finally, we drilled holes through each of the connectors (on the top side) and into the pipe. A round-headed screw was added to help keep the structure together.

Pro Tip: After consulting with the maintenance department at school, we decided NOT to glue the court together. The reasoning is because If one pipe were to break due to someone hanging, we'd have to buy a whole new connector at that joint (which is the most expensive part). Also, we wanted to be able to disassemble the court and put it away for the Winter if needed. They also suggested round-headed screws to prevent any "catch" injuries if a student were to jump and hand from the PVC grid.

Step 4: Raise the Roof!

We carried the assembled squares of the 9 square court to a flat area. This was one of the proposed sites and the one we were permitted to use. I don't have a picture of this because it was a team effort and I was part of the team. This much PVC is pretty heavy so it called for all hands!

Next, the legs were carried to the court site.

16 students lifted the squares in unison and each connector joint was seated onto each of the 16 legs.

Finally, a few artistic students created signs to help keep the game organized and the structure safe.

Step 5: Play!!

The person in the middle square (the king square) will serve the ball by hitting the ball up and out of their square.

When the ball comes into your square simply hit the ball up and out of your square into any other square.

  • If the ball falls into your square, you are out.
  • If the ball is hit outside of the whole game structure, the last person who touched the ball is out.
  • If someone double hits the ball, they are out.
  • If someone hits the game structure, they are out.

When someone gets out, they move to the back of the line. Everyone advances forward one square to fill-in the empty place.

So if you're looking for an interdisciplinary activity to do with your students that is hand's on and will get them active... This is the build for you!

Good luck, and let me know if you have any questions.

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    3 Discussions


    5 weeks ago

    You say that you don't have state standards attached, but it'd be pretty easy to tie this to the Next Generation Science Standards for engineering in the middle school. It's also a good project to work in the engineering design process.

    At any rate, it looks like a lot of fun and teaches some valuable skills.


    6 weeks ago

    One of the only games I can play without losing right away :D


    7 weeks ago

    What a fun build for the class!