Architecture program teaches third graders life skills
January 17, 2013
Fort Belvoir Elementary School students shared architectural lessons with students and teachers from other elementary schools in Arlington and Fairfax school districts Jan. 9, at the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center.
Nekia Aiken and Sabrina Pack, students in Joyce Shott's third grade class at Fort Belvoir Elementary School, spoke of what they and their classmates learned in the Washington Architectural Foundation's
Architecture in the Schools program over the last four months and how those lessons helped them design a city block for their final project.
"We learned how to build columns and how to make them stand," said Pack.
"We rolled up paper and to make them stand we had to cut some of the column off," Aiken said. "Then, we bent the bottom and glued the paper onto the cardboard and it would stand."
The city block consisted of an apartment complex, hotel, gym, pizzeria and a park. Amanda Hoch, Job Captain at the SHW Group, worked with Shott's students once a week beginning last September.
Hoch let the children design the city, only interjecting when they asked for direct assistance.
"I asked them what they thought the design needed," said Hoch. "They said they needed a hotel, gym, and pizzeria. I did say we needed some apartments, and they were excited about that. I would ask questions through the process, but I wouldn't give them directions. I let them run with what they wanted to do."
Hoch reviewed how to design columns, buildings and spaces, and taught the children how to draw a layout, with elevations and perspectives.
Shott enjoys the life lessons the children learn and how to think outside the box.
"They learned to work as a team and they learned how to agree to disagree which is a big skill," said Shott. "Before just blindly trying to build something, they were discussing strategies and whether they will work or not. Whether or not the material they are thinking of using is strong enough to support what they wanted to do. They wouldn't have done that in September."
The students were divided into six groups and Hoch had one person from each group sit with her and discuss the layout of the city. They discussed how the park should be in a central location so city residents can easily access it, and where the remainder of the city's structures should be placed.
"We put the hotel in an accessible area," said Hoch. "The gym is right next to the hotel and the flag went into the middle of the park. We were very detailed with everything and I'm very impressed how well they picked up and applied the lessons."
The students did come across a few challenges while constructing the city, but Hoch said they met each challenge with a positive attitude and figured out how to resolve the issue.
"They had to figure out how much glue to put down so things would actually dry and figure out how to cut straight, so they had to measure things with a ruler," said Hoch.. "They realized they could add more mass to the bottom of the wall so it would stand up."
The lessons the students learned from Hoch came in handy while constructing gingerbread houses at Christmastime, according to Shott.
Shott said her students incorporated structure lessons when they built the gingerbread houses.
"They used pretzel sticks to put awnings over their porches," said Shott. "This program makes them so much better thinkers."
Aiken and Pack both said they not only learned about architecture the last four months, but how subjects they study in school apply to architecture.
"I didn't know math and art combined in architecture," said Aiken. "I thought architecture was something by itself."
"I didn't know columns held up the structure," said Pack. "I always thought the walls did."
Shott learned of the program from an advanced academics teacher who taught at Belvoir Elementary last year. Shott said she will continue to participate in the program as long as she can.
"They have learned life skills from this," said Shott. "If these kids can learn to get along with people that think or look differently than they do, the world is their oyster because they don't have to worry about where they are going in the future. They got everything out of the program I hoped for and even more."