Kids Learn Building Basics

4/20/2006


By: Adam Leech
Date: Thursday, Apr 20, 2006
Publication: Portsmouth Herald

A rush of "oohs" and "aahs" blew through Linda Briolat's fourth-grade classroom at Little Harbour School as seemingly separate shapes turned into a beautiful brick building.

"It's not hard to draw a building when you break it down into shapes," said Lisa DeStefano of Portsmouth-based DeStefano Architects.

The fourth-graders will tour different buildings in the city today as part of their community lessons. The class will split into groups and report on the structural elements of their building, using the lessons they learned from DeStefano and Juliean MacDonald on Wednesday.

DeStefano took volunteers from the class and used their bodies as tools to teach the students about the different elements, such as columns, post and beam, tunnels and arches. She had five students stand in a circle, raise their arms and lean forward against their classmates.

"This is how a dome works," said DeStefano. "Everything pushes to the center."

The outreach program, Learning by Design, was initiated by the American Architectural Foundation with the objective of bringing architects into the classroom to teach children about their craft.

"I find the more kids can be exposed to different things, the more opportunities there are for them," said DeStefano, who grew up in Portsmouth and fell in love with the idea of designing buildings in an art class at Portsmouth Middle School.

DeStefano and MacDonald went to a convention to learn different ways of teaching what they do to children, and DeStefano said "this was one way we thought we could give back to the community."

Fourth grade, she said, is the age where kids can take what they know in math and science and apply their creativity to it.

Architecture involves many elements of the students' community lessons, according to Briolat, because they learn about the different government buildings, their location and what goes on there, while integrating geometry, measurement and writing.

"It really ties in nicely with our curriculum. ... It involves all kinds of thinking," said Briolat. "It's a real-life experience rather than a pencil-and-paper sort of thing.

"They can do the book stuff, but this is much more engaging and more fun."

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