Architecture and Kids #Architalks

Last Summer, my 5 year old daughter attended a camp at Ace Academy in Austin called Summer Wonders.  I had heard great things about the program and it had won "Best Summer Camp in Austin" for 4 straight years.  But what convinced me that it was an absolute must-do, was that they were offering a class in architecture.  Specifically, "art in architecture".  Teaching kids architecture? Oh, what fun! I regularly indulge in sketch and design exercises with my kids.  We've designed playgrounds, neighbourhoods, pools, doll houses, etc. It's usually a 15-30 minute endeavour, and ends up looking like this.

Clearly, they are not developing advanced design skills, but it amazes me how much this quick exercise can attune them to their surroundings.  Needless to say, their imagination is not weighed down by the baggage called "we've done it this way for 30 years". It's part of what makes teaching kids architecture such a joy.

I have no secret wishes that my kids become architects when they grow up, nor do I have any grand schemes to brainwash them into loving architecture.  I just want them to have an exposure to architectural thinking, a lot sooner than a formal education at a college level. Much like foundations in science, math, language, art, music and sports, kids are never too young to learn a thing or two about architecture.

I have, in the past, done short presentations kindergarten classes about what informs architectural design. But this summer, I am going to teach 2 two-week sessions at Summer Wonders.

See course descriptions below for the 2 classes I have come up with.  If it sounds a little heavy for a summer program, don't worry - I've been assured that the kids ("gifted" or not) will lap it up.

Summer Wonders Session 1 June 20 - July 1 Architecture through the looking glass Did you know that lightning striking sand can create natural glass? This discovery was humanity’s first exposure to this magnificent material and we have had a love affair with it ever since. Used in architecture as decoration since the Middle Ages, its use is now ubiquitous - it allows sunlight in, opens up space, and even defines architectural style. It is considered the epitome of technological innovation. Learn about glass manufacturing, different types of glass, and the effects (both positive and negative) of using it in buildings. Let's discuss the greenhouse effect, experiment with colors, and discover it's limits. Explore how glass has been used in buildings throughout history, then design and construct your own model using this amazing material.

Summer Wonders Session 2 July 11 - 22 It's not easy being green Is green building about a home for Kermit? Or is it about designing buildings that work with the surrounding environment.  Learn about the history of the green building movement and it's current state of affairs. Find out the relationship between climate and human comfort. Discover what lies at the intersection of building science and architectural design. Understand the technologies that help us and that fail us - photo voltaics, rainwater collection, shading devices, cooling and heating systems. How can we make our living spaces more comfortable without paying a penalty?We’ll work on projects that illustrate how architects solve these problems using good design.

If you are looking for a summer camp in Austin for your kids, I strongly recommend that you check out all the courses offered and sign up. Registration is now open.

How I wish I were a kid again!

If you have tips for me, suggestions on class activities, or how to make this fun, please drop in a comment.



This post is a contribution to the #Architalks series of blog posts.  For other blog posts on “Architecture and...”, please click on links below.

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