top of page

Designing Noah's Ark

Using Award Winning Design to Give Back


Fabretto empowers families in Nicaragua by developing economic opportunities and improving education and nutrition. The carpentry program, created as an after-school program, employs students in the small, rural town of Cusmapa. The carpenters cut, stain, paint, label and package all of the pieces while earning a steady income and increasing their skills.

As an industrial design student in 2007, I entered a wooden toy competition to benefit the Fabretto Children's Foundation. The challenge's main requirement was to design the toy from a single 2X4 that could be reproduced and sold. 


In addition to the foundation's work with children, they also run an adult carpentry program. This program provided those local to the Nicaraguan woodshop vocational training and a way to sell the goods they made. At the time, the woodshop produced a wooden nativity scene that could serve as a toy, puzzle, or decor. 

This glimpse into the existing work and needs of the workshop allowed me to focus in on the concept for my design.


  • If people bought a wooden nativity scene, then maybe they would purchase a similar item. 

  • Having had the chance to interact with the nativity scene, and finding it quite challenging as an adult, I wondered how easy it was for little ones or their parents to clean up this toy or puzzle. 

  • The nativity was a beautiful item to have on display at Christmas and I wanted my design to also function as an object which could be displayed when not in use. 

When brainstorming the subject matter for my design, I needed something religious that could appeal to both children and adults, and I quickly landed on Noah's Ark. 


By cutting the 2X4 into boat-shaped pieces, I stacked them three high to create a boat large enough to hold Noah's cargo. Using a doll rod, I secured the pieces so they could pivot open and closed. Then, taking inspiration from the nativity scene, I chose to carve the animals out of each boat layer. This allowed the animals to fit snugly into the boat for storage and provided a designated space for each animal making it easier for little ones to put away. On the top level of the boat, I carved out an inlay to store the walls and roof of Noah's house. Small holes made it easy to assemble and secure Noah's house on the top of the boat. 

I was genuinely proud of my work. But what set it apart was my ability to listen to the foundation's needs. This ultimately lead my design to be chosen as the second item the Fabretto Carpentry Program would produce. 

Screen Shot 2020-10-12 at 11.37.02

Click here to visit the Fabretto woodshop 

bottom of page