When first-graders from Buffalo's Community School 53 toured downtown during a recent fieldtrip, several were able to identify architectural elements surrounding them. Their knowledge was partly due to Buffalo State interior design student Becky Sturniolo’s participation in the Buffalo Architecture Foundation’s Architecture and Education (Arch+Ed) Program.
Sturniolo and Rebecca Williams, an architect with CannonDesign, collaborated to create weekly lesson plans on the elements of architectural design and started delivering them to the first-grade class in October.
"I was really surprised by how much the students retained," said Sturniolo, a senior and one of nine students in lecturer Cheri Weatherston’s IDE 389 Teaching Practicum participating in the program.
"Overall, it has been a gratifying experience," she said. "Each week the kids are so excited to see us."
The award-winning biennial program pairs professional architects with college students for a semester of weekly lessons for preschool-through-high school students.
This is the first year that Buffalo State has offered a course that puts students into classrooms as part of the Arch+Ed program. They work with the professionals to integrate architecture concepts into math, science, history, art, and technology lessons aligned with the Common Core learning standards, while also raising awareness and appreciation of the built environment.
"Our students are reinforcing skills being taught in the classroom," Weatherston said. "For instance, the classes might be focusing on pattern and rhythm. They can use patterning found in bricks, stained glass windows, or row houses to demonstrate this. And our students have illustrated the concept of infinity for kindergartners by having them sit in a circle linking hands."
Darcy Engle, a senior interior design student, got involved with the Arch+ Ed program two years ago as a volunteer. She enjoyed the experience so much that she enrolled in Weatherston’s class and is now working with ninth-grade art majors at the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts.
"I think the experience of working with students has helped me," said Engle, who plans to pursue a master’s in architecture after graduating in May. "I find that ninth-graders are a little more hesitant than younger kids, who believe anything is possible. Part of the battle is helping students overcome that hesitancy."
Weatherston said that 95 percent of her students "absolutely love the experience" of working with the children through the program, adding that the participating teachers have reported that classroom attendance increases during the architect/student visits.
Architect Ben Spitler relayed the value that the Buffalo State students bring to the classroom by pointing to international students Gulnihal (Rose) Yilmaz and Olushola (Shola) Mogaji who have worked with him this fall at the International Preparatory School.
"It's difficult to get the students going, especially at 8:00 a.m., but Shola and Rose immediately start walking around to students, engaging them one-to-one," he said. "In doing this, the students quickly begin to open up and have produced some really excellent work."
Throughout the semester, each classroom has created a final project to be included in an exhibition at Buffalo’s CEPA Gallery from January 8 to 18 that is open to the public.
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