Architect Helps STEM Summer Campers Build Knowledge About Structures & The Environment

“How many of you know about the field of architecture?”

With this question signaling that class has begun, the students’ conversational prelude—exchanging remarks on feelings of (dis)affection for Justin Bieber—comes to a close. The third to fifth grade students face forward, hands raised to answer the question posed.

It’s Thursday afternoon and students at the East Austin College Prep STEM Summer Institute are ready to learn from their guest teacher for the day, architect Linda Montgomery.

A precocious girl in the center of the class is the first to answer, a trend that continues throughout the lesson. “Architecture designs chairs and buildings and things like that,” she says softly, assured in her accuracy. Her classmates chirp supplements such as “you can create stuff” and “people that make architecture are called architects.”

Montgomery, satisfied with these responses, expands on the topic, speaking succinctly on the many diverse projects architects routinely take on. She and her assistant, Ashley, use two large, three-paneled poster boards with pictures of various buildings from around the world to illustrate the variety of architectural design. On them are plastered photo cut-outs of the White House, Walt Disney World, and the Eiffel Tower, among others.

With students’ introductory understanding secured, Montgomery continues to the main topic of the day’s lesson: environmental quality and how architecture can accommodate the need for a smaller eco-footprint. To demonstrate, a video about homes made from recycled metal shipping containers is shown and met with a chorus of “whoooaaa”s after viewing one particularly modernist concept.

As Montgomery engages the class in discussion about landfills, recycling, and green living, the students are hard at work on a paper house construction assignment. Carefully scissoring around the darkened outlines of their prefab paper houses, the kids take note of the rectangular similarity between the shipping container houses of the video and their task at hand. Once they glue the indicated paper tabs together, their houses spring up and are ready for decoration.

As class winds down, general chatter prevails, but now there has been a distinct shift in subject matter. Bella, eager to share her family’s eco-friendly habits, talks about collecting rainwater to grow blueberries. A boy wanders towards one of Montgomery’s example posters and exclaims, “That’s a really beautiful house!”

Montgomery, a practicing architect since 1986, teaches classes like this one for after-school programs in the Leander Independent School District. Given the opportunity to guest speak at EAPrep, she happily accepted, saying the STEM Summer Institute was “the perfect program to expand and educate other students around the city.”

 

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