Architecture in Schools

What's better than architecture after school? #ArchiTalks

As I've mentioned on #Architalks posts before, kids and architecture are a match made in heaven.

After-school activity:

Now that everyone is back to school, parents are wondering what their kids are going to do between when school lets out and they get picked up.  What better than a little architectural exploration after school?  Bring a little artistry from the art class, a little knowledge from science class, a little creativity from the heart, give it a good mix, and see what happens.

That was the thought that prompted me to offer an architecture afterschool program at my daughter's elementary school.  I figured that if 5 kids signed-up, my daughter included, I would have a viable class - viable for their sake!  I originally planned to either teach a class on Mondays or Fridays - whichever got more interest.

Holy cow! I got 30 sign-ups in less than a week, meeting my planned max class size for both days!  Now, there's a waitlist!  The response was overwhelming, to say the least!  I guess parents were itching for a class that didn't fall into the normal range of after school offerings.  Everyone is so excited for the program to start.  Parents tell me "this is right up Jill's alley - she's always building", or "This is awesome, we are super excited, he's going to love this".

No Pressure, right!

School vs. education:

I guess there are more kids who straddle the right/left brain-divide in these early elementary years than I thought.  Why allow that superpower to get squelched under the rigors of school?  Was it Mark Twain that said "Don't let school get in the way of an education?"

As I've written in a previous post, I was good at school and always got good grades, but it wasn't till I went to architecture school that I had that thirst to learn more and passion to immerse myself in my field of study.  The only explanation, besides the fact that architecture is so fascinating, is that I could have one foot in the creative world and one foot in the analytical.  So yes, I can relate.

So, what's the class going to be like?  I don't really think about it as a lecture series.  Yawn!  Rather, I believe in the idea of encouraging curiosity and sustaining inquiry.  Not coincidentally, this is the central idea at Magellan International School.  Perhaps, that's another reason why my Architecture After-School program appeals to so many of the parents and their kids.

Topics of interest:

The challenge is not really what to talk about, rather where should I stop? The sky is the limit.  I taught a couple architecture classes over the summer at ACE Academy that I cleverly called "Through the looking glass - How this modern material changed the face of architecture", and "The Big Feat - Design and Construction of Olympic Facilities".  So, I've got a theme going with a twist on children's' classics story books.

This fall, my program is titled "No place like home" borrowing from the classic Wizard of Oz.  I'm taking the kids on a tour of homes from around the world, exploring the idea of home and what it means to different people.  We will study different methods of construction and technologies, design aesthetics, environmental effects, factors like culture, community, lifestyle that affect forms and neighborhood arrangements.  Kids will wonder at the diversity of what people consider home - from the cramped high rise apartments of Hong Kong to luxurious grounds of the Buckingham Palace;  the favelas of Rio to the exquisite victorian row houses of San Francisco...The idea of home means different things to different people, yet we all find love and comfort in our home.  Kids will engage in activities such as sketching, model building, and design projects.

Right now I'm deep into the lesson planning phase and really looking forward to meeting all the kids!  Their enthusiasm is sure to make this semester a very educational and fun experience.

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This post is a contribution to the #ArchiTalks series of blog posts.  For other blog posts on “Back to School”, please click on links below.

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols) What Have We Learned? It's Back To School For #ArchiTalks 21

Mark R. LePage - EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect) Back to School: Marketing for Architects

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Cormac Phalen - Cormac Phalen (@archy_type) Back to School Again

Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch) Designing Back to School

Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM) ArchiTalks: "Back To School"

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC) 4 Tips As You Go Back To School

Enoch Sears - Business of Architecture (@businessofarch) Back to School!

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti) good to go back to school

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel) #architalks 21 "back to school"

Kyu Young Kim - Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu) Back to School: Seoul Studi

Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept) Back to {Architecture} School

brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA) Back to the Cartography Board

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz) Back to School

Michael LaValley - Evolving Architect (@archivalley) #ArchiTalks / 15 Ways to Make the Most of Your Architectural Education

Eric Wittman - intern[life] (@rico_w) getting [schooled] again

Jared W. Smith - Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL) Back to School...

Michael Riscica - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX) Let’s Get Back To (Architect) School …or Work.

Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell) Back to School...Suckasssssss

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign) bettermenTen

Adam Denais - Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch) [ArchiTalks #21] 10 Things Architecture Students Say Going Back to School

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey) Back to School? It Doesn't Stop there for Architects.

Tim Ung - Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung) 10 Things I wish I knew about Architecture School

Talking to kindergarteners about architecture

I went into my daughter's kindergarten class today to talk about architecture.  I wanted to share my love for architecture with these wide-eyed 6 year olds.  My intent was to whet their appetite for creativity and design. Maybe one of these kids might get inspired to become an architect.  As you might have heard "it's hard to become what you don't see".  Actually, as I write this I am realizing that in 20 years, when these kids are 25-26 (and I am 60!), I could be hiring and working with one of them!

I also wanted to create an awareness about what architects do, much in keeping with the purpose of this blog.  Of course, they didn't need me to tell them that architects design buildings.  They already knew that. So, I talked to them about what informs architectural design.

They have been learning about 'the environment and human societies'; inquiring about 'who they are' and 'how they express themselves'; wondering about seasons and 'where they are in time and place'; 'simple machines' and 'how the world works'.  These are their 'units of inquiry' thus far in kindergarten.

Doesn't all that sound like the perfect set-up for a presentation on what informs architectural design? It's like sowing seeds on a freshly plowed field that is all set for a ripe harvest.

We talked about Roman architecture and the exploration of innovative construction systems that gave us the arches, barrel vaults, and domes.

We talked about settlements in different climates around the world - how density of built environment is a response to climate, culture, and construction materials.  We contrasted dense urban areas to the typical american sub-urban neighborhood,  The kids remarked about the abundance of greenery in suburbia and I tried to draw attention to the abundance of paved road area.

We talked about architectural styles, sloped roofs and flat roofs, what works for extreme climates and what doesn't.  I had to tell them about Frank Llyod Wright and Falling Water!  6 year olds are not the only ones who get excited about a waterfall through a house.

We talked about the different climate zones in the US. We talked about heat, humidity, and comfort. We talked about how the sun's path in the sky in the summer and winter are different and how we can take advantage of that when we design buildings to keep us comfortable.

Did I lose them? Did I overload them with too much information? Maybe!

Or perhaps, this is the moment (s)he will talk about when (s)he receives his/her Pritzker Prize in 50 years :)

These kids are the architects of the future.  Even if none of them choose architecture as their career, they will design and shape the world in their own way.

Architecture is a very versatile field.  It engages right and left brain.  So engaging in architectural pursuits is prefect for kids of all ages who are trying to explore their gifts and interests.

I love the inquiry-based learning environment in my daughter's school.  Every time I do one of these projects with her class, I wish I was a kid all over again.  The school outlines 'units of inquiry' that delve deeper and deeper at subsequent grade levels.  What I (selfishly) love most is that they encourage parents to come and present their expertise and knowledge - much more stimulating (not to mention inspiring) than listening to your teacher drone on about something that might be on a test.  After all, the parent body is a vast network of people with real-world skills and a variety of talents, people from different backgrounds, every single one contributing as citizens of the world.

Viva La Education!