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!