Josh Johnson (Senior Architect) and Brian Ansel (Senior Designer) recently spent time with 3rd graders from Sauk Trail Elementary in Middleton, WI. The classroom sessions are part of the larger program called Terrace Town, a program that brings architecture, design and city planning curriculum to Dane County, Wisconsin, elementary classrooms.
During the first of two class sessions, groups of students were tasked with working together to build a Roman arch using wood blocks and teamwork to create the self-supporting architectural element.
In the second session, students designed their own community using sheets green paper to represent land parcels and wood blocks for homes. Each child had one “parcel” and a “house” and together the class laid out a suburban community, complete with streets.
As they learned about housing density from Brian at the front of the room, a classroom assistant morphed their wood-block suburban community into a semi-urban community that included multi-family housing, shopping area and parks/green space using only the house blocks and parcels used to create the suburban community.
A second transformation turned the semi-urban community into a high-density urban center with high-rise housing, cultural center and retail areas.
Through the demonstration, students learned how building vertically and increasing housing density allows for more parks and open areas that enhance the livability of a community and creates opportunities for neighborhood amenities such as shopping and entertainment areas.
Over several weeks, students learn how cities are planned, what makes a quality city and how citizens can participate in the improvement of their community. Classrooms design and construct a scale model city and then install them in Monona Terrace's Exhibition Hall (a Madison, WI event venue) for public viewing. Teachers work in partnership with volunteer “mentors” - architects, planners and design professionals - to facilitate the students' work.
Josh Johnson has been involved in teaching young students about architecture since 1991 and the enthusiasm elementary students demonstrate when given a chance to design and build never fails to “warm my architect's heart.”
Brian Ansel was particularly impressed by one young student who embraced the idea of “using your imagination through architecture.” At the end of the second session, the boy announced that he knew how to make a house float and proudly explained that using magnets was the solution.
Amazingly, an architect is currently working on ways to do just that – levitate homes and buildings above flood waters using magnets. The architect's name is Lira Luis. You can read more about her work on the Internet.
A shout-out to teachers Andrea Lindberg, Julie Kauper, Joan Hustad and Carissa Brown at Sauk Trail Elementary and their students. Thanks for letting us be part of your classrooms! An additional shout-out to Dorene Schink, Associate AIA from Focus on Energy – thank you!
To learn more about the Terrace Town program, watch the video.