Architecture in the classroom by @BoltCallum

Love it or hate it architecture is all around us. From the ‘simple and ordinary’ tower block to architectural wonders such as the British Museum or the Shard, it forms the foundations in any building ever built. Like with any art form people will stand there and declare their love for the Shard and their hate for the simple tower block while others will just think these people are crazy. Being an art specialist and leader in my school, I enjoy bringing lesser taught art forms into the classroom. When asked, I doubt many people would think that architecture is being or could be taught in the primary classroom, and in a recent survey of the children at my school, none said that they thought architecture was a type of art. This is especially upsetting as we work in a Beautiful Victorian building.

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Architecture in its simplest form is the creating of buildings, although it is much more than this. Whenever learning about types of buildings, for example in a castle topic, I enjoy talking about the types of castles with the children and their opinions of the different designs. Taking this further it would be easy to allow children to create their own castle using features from the designs we studied. This is Architecture! Thinking about the how to build the strongest safest castle but still enable the people inside to live out their lives isn’t as easy as it seems!

If teaching architecture, whether as a topic or an add-on to another, it is important to get the children excited, like with anything we teach. For many, they would not have looked closely at buildings and their only experience would be walking past them on the way to school or the shops. We need to ensure children stop and look at great buildings, which are actually all around them, every town or village as a Hall or church, maybe a council building that would have been designed to the architectural tastes of the day. Helping children to look at these as pieces of art just like we do when looking at a painting, will inspire the architects of the future from an early age.

Whether you take the children on a trip to a local building to study or use a well-made resource showing famous buildings around the world, with the right enthusiasm children will be drawn in. Activities such as discussions and sketching the buildings around you will start the children onto bigger things.

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Stories with an architectural element such as The Three Little Pigs or Rapunzel gives a cross-curricular aspect to the learning and allows the children to build upon knowledge and stories they already know. Many will enjoy thinking about a story they already they have already encountered and know well in a different and exciting new way. Getting them to plan their own buildings choosing the building materials and design is all part of being an architect. They can think about whether or not to sacrifice safety for a ‘prettier’ more attractive’ building and what this means for the characters.

You don’t have to look far to find architectural stories in the news. A new skyscraper or a contested power station, people always have an opinion. Whether it is a planned shopping centre down the road from your school or the creation of a famous building halfway around the world, such as the Birj Kalifa, children can and will have an opinion. Questioning children here is key. Looking towards Bloom’s Taxonomy for levels of questioning to ensure children think in depth about the buildings they are looking at is so important, to move away from just liking or disliking a building but why.

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With the push towards more environmentally friendly buildings Children could also be challenged to build their buildings with an environmental brief. Linking to geography children could be asked to design a building that would suit a certain environment. If thinking about history children always have to draw a castle or Tudor building. Teaching them how to do this in a more architectural way, in using measurements and to study features of buildings built before as well as how the building will be used and sit in the environment.

Teaching Architecture is incredibly exciting and relevant to the lives of the children we teach. It is probably something many of us have done already or could easily fit into our curriculum. I have already found it to be incredibly rewarding and beneficial to the children I teach. Maybe even some of them will design the next award-winning skyscraper!

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About Callum Bolt 3 Articles
Currently I am working as a Year 2 teacher, Art lead, School Artist and ArtsMark coordinator in an East London School. I have a real passion for all things cross-curricular art!

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