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Saturday, February 22, 2014

The ABCs of Architecture

It's about time, teachers, for the ABCs of Architecture.   As an enrichment specialist for my district, I work with students in 2nd - 5th grades. The focus is not limited to academics. My fourth graders endowed with artistic talent embarked on an architectural adventure that resulted in a published book. It was an awesome experience for all involved.

Two local groups, the Preservation and Conservation Association (PACA) and the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), asked me to conduct a project in which elementary students would learn about local, historic buildings.  In the process, they hoped to impress upon the students the value of preservation. They offered to subsidize a field trip for my 4th graders, complete with chaperons from their groups! How could I possibly say, "No?" 

My students began with a study of basic architectural elements, such as lines, shapes, textures, and form. Inspired by Diane Maddex's book, Architects Make Zigzags, Looking at Architecture from A to Z,  we made it our goal to produce an alphabet book about architecture found on historic buildings in our hometown.  

The next step entailed finding an architectural term or terms for each letter of the alphabet.  What followed was a flurry of old fashioned research as my charges constructed an impressive list.  We only had to stretch to find a term for X, settling on railroad crossing.  You may have just done an eye roll, but I was quite proud of my students' reasoning. They learned that our community grew around a railroad crossing for the Illinois Central railroad.

Armed with their alphabetical lists and sketchpads, we embarked on a bus and walking tour of the downtown region.  Can there be anything sweeter to a teacher's ears than the zealous exclamations of 9 & 10 year olds as they recognize a cupola, gargoyle, or keystone?  While our hosts gave us facts and fascinating stories about the buildings on our tour, my students sketched.

Back at school, the 4th grade crew drew pen and ink illustrations of the elements they sketched.  They composed the text explaining their terms and identifying the buildings upon which they were found.  PACA and HPC provided enough funds to allow us to professionally bind several copies of our books.  Those copies can now be found at the city library, our school library, in the offices of PACA and HPC, and in the city building. Each student received a copy fresh off the school's copy machine.  

Following are some excerpts from our book:

And finally, here are some of the comments my students had at the end of this project:

In my opinion, this project was the embodiment of enrichment.  

Until next time...

If you love enrichment, you may be interested in these units: