Our partner architect visited the class for the first time yesterday; what an exciting visit! As MF exclaimed… “a real girl builder!”
She had so many great ideas to share with our students and we all (adults included) learned a lot. As non-architects it’s a big leap for us, as educators, to help the children through this inquiry and her visit gave us a much-needed shot of confidence.
She had a great strategy for teaching perspective drawing. She brought in two green peppers and used them as a substitute for a building because, as she pointed out, peppers have walls and interior space.
She showed us how to draw the pepper from the front (architecture term, elevation), from the top (plan), and with the front wall cut away (section). The children were captivated by the idea that there was more than one way to draw an object. They asked great questions and had amazing ideas about what kinds of buildings architects design (prisons, hospitals, shopping malls).
KC shared that it was important to make a diagram of your building and we talked about how we might measure our drawings so that a builder could follow them accurately. Our architect then showed us how to measure our model buildings so that we could translate them into drawings too.
She showed us how we could draw our buildings from elevation, plan, and section perspectives – this was especially interesting because it got the children thinking about shape; a triangular building looks rectangular when you view it from the top.
After all that learning we got the chance to do our own drawings! The children amazed us by applying their new learning so immediately and by using rulers, for the first time, with confidence and precision.
While A-frames were a popular building style in the 1960s and 70s, most children aren’t familiar with them.
And yet SN built one.
Where did she get the idea?
She says: “I just used my imagination. It was a little bit easy to build cause you could grab the two squares and put them together and then make a box around it.”
In her reflection, she captures the ease of building that made A-frames so popular 40 years ago.
When I was at Bennington College in the late 90s, the college had recently undergone a process known as Symposium. This re-thinking of college life had seen the elimination of Art History as a discipline and the re-evaluation of the reasons for teaching the history of art. In my own dance classes, Dance History was taught as a required, but not-for-credit, section of a dancer’s course work. The rationale we were given at the time was that we were there to make dance history, not to read about it.
What interested me as I moved out into the world was the ways that we, knowingly or not, make and re-make the histories of whatever discipline we are working in. Often what children make, whether they are building or dancing, reflects the history of the form. As in the development of concert dance, children will often make narrative dance/dramas before they are ready to venture into abstraction and post-modern chance dances of pure movement. We are seeing the same kinds of explorations in our Architecture inquiry, as children are drawn first towards the forms that they are familiar with (square and rectangular boxes, with flat and pitched roofs, then towards forms that are different but easy to build and next… who knows?
Good news! We have been fortunate to be selected to undertake an experiential learning project funded by the Student Success Policy Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Education. The project we’ve proposed is focused on building and design, prompted by our students’ insatiable desire to build in more and and more interesting, complex, and creative ways.
Here in Northern Town, we are very lucky to have a brand new School of Architecture, one that is open to working with the community on projects like ours. With our professorial partner at the School of Architecture, we are working on new ways to challenge the children and provoke them to design and build in new and ambitious ways.
Part of this project has been to examine our assumptions about the design process. I’ve always assumed, supported by quite a lot of reading, that we should be encouraging children to first sketch what they want to build before sitting down to work with materials. It’s never worked but I’ve kept trying. I keep asking children: “Would you like to make a plan? How about we make a plan first?” Never… not once… but I keep hoping.
At least, I kept hoping… until last week. When we met with our partner architect – she has a PhD in Architecture – to plan our project, she casually mentioned that they never ask their students to draw before they build. NEVER. They always get their students to create what she called a “3-D sketch”… a rough construction using cardboard and masking tape. Then they refine their ideas by creating a more detailed and precise 3-D sketch using museum board or balsa wood. THEN THEY DRAW IT!
Cue the open-mouthed gape. How did I think that 4, 5, and 6 year-olds were going to draw plans of their 3-D designs when undergraduates can’t do it? Apparently, it’s not just hard for kids… it’ s just plain hard.
So… new plan. Today we started working on our first 3-D sketches, using cardboard and masking tape. We were delighted by the results. The children dove in with enthusiasm. Look!