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  • National Art Education Association

    Teachers Are Making It HappenAuthor(s): Dean Graves and Ginny GravesSource: Art Education, Vol. 42, No. 5 (Sep., 1989), pp. 17-22Published by: National Art Education AssociationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3193173 .Accessed: 14/06/2014 15:51

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    Children view their "Rabbit Pavilion."

    Teachers Are

    Making It


    Dean and Ginny Graves

    I n the summer of 1988, over 200 teachers in the states of Missouri and Kansas climbed aboard yellow school buses, traveled over 150 miles in 90 degree temperatures and 90 percent humidity to

    learn about the built environment - art, architecture, urban design, and preservation - through tours, lectures, and hands-on activities. Forty hours and one week later they were prepared, anxious, and eager to implement the same kinds of experiences for their students. This scenario was repeated in Minnesota, New Mexico, Iowa, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington, Texas, and elsewhere.

    This program, Teach the Teachers, is just one of many which the American Institute of Architects (AIA) is sponsor- ing nationwide in an effort to introduce and familiarize teachers with the basic concepts about the Built Environ- ment

    Art educators are among its first and most ardent enthusi- asts (many teachers are enrolling for any and all courses offered); moreover, educators at all grade levels and in all curriculum areas find that they can incorporate built environ- ment learning into the "teachable moments" of every day. What seems to catch the imagination of art educators and classroom teachers alike is the interdisciplinary nature of

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    architecture-focused education. Built environment education encompasses economics, politics, geography, and aesthetics; and skills such as reading, writing, math, drawing, and visual thinking.

    How does a non-educational organization, the American Institute of Architects, begin a national educational effort to affect the climate for good design? How does any organiza- tion with a relatively limited budget and small staff introduce learning concepts which do not fit just one curriculum area? To tackle these challenges, the AIA's public education director, Alan Sandler, has appointed regional education coordinators to help solve this dilemma and encouraged the coordinators to implement programs as they could on a local "what works, works" basis, and do some downright pioneer- ing in the schools without curricula.

    A not atypical situation existed in the greater Kansas City area with its 25 school districts; three large cities; a dozen smaller bedroom communities, and a state line cross-over which discourages district co-operation. After initial discus- sions with superintendents and principals who, although enthusiastic about the program, were not able to fund new programs, the focus was switched to the grass roots level, the instructors, catering to their desire to present enriching experiences in their classrooms. By offering continuing education courses through local universities and colleges for graduate credit, Graves, a regional coordinator, was able to provide programs which were self-supporting in terms of materials and speakers' fees. (In most states, teachers are required to take additional course work for salary increase or recertification.) Experiences enriching for the individual teacher, providing knowledge about architecture and design, and valuable as a classroom resource formed a strong educational package with the natural incentive for salary scale increase. An on-going and successful built environment education program is the outgrowth of this effort.

    The continued success of the Kansas City model (regu- larly 200 enrollments in each course) encouraged Missouri Council of Architects to implement that effort statewide. Over 2400 teachers in the two-state area have received the training in the last five years. When the number of teachers involved in in-depth training (30-45 contact hours in most cases) is multiplied by an conservative average student ratio of 1 instructor per 25 students, the numbers of students receiving built environment education becomes impressive and bodes well for the quality of the future environment of our cities and states. In the AIA newsletter, Elmer Botsai, FAIA, refers to the advantages of educating children to both architects and society. "If we can appropriately expose our

    youth to the options that quality architecture has to offer, we can foresee generations of citizens equipped to need, yes, demand, the highest level of services our profession can deliver. Only when the public demands the best we have, can we make a substantial contribution to society - a contribu- tion, I believe most architects would like to make."

    To date, courses are being offered or are on the calendar in Springfield, Columbia, St Louis, and Hannibal. In addition, Missouri Council is helping other states to begin programs, usually taught cooperatively with a school district representative (often an art educator), an AIA representative, or an education consultant from the local historic preserva- tion organization. The Iowa Council of Architects, under the coordination of art educator Sue Lewis, is in its second year.

    Why are architects willing to give many hours away from their offices to implement this program? Dean Graves, long active with built environment education in Kansas City, and author/illustrator of the Kansas City Coloring Book:

    It gives me great satisfaction to know that I can improve the environment now with attention to the buildings and envi- ronments I design; I can improve the created environment of tomorrow with the exposure of young people to good design and design issues. They are the shapers of the future, the decision-makers of the next century. The time that I spend 'teaching teachers' is as valuable and rewarding as the time that I spend with a client.

    'The MCA Teach the Teachers approach is not one of teaching people to become architects," says Paul Duffen- dack, past president of MCA. "Rather, we want to teach people to recognize and appreciate the best in the built environment and to strive for that in their individual roles as citizens who serve on planning and zoning commissions, in their businesses as developers, bankers, and lawyers, or as individual home owners. The architect is not the only decision-making member of the design team, and it is necessary for all members of the team to recognize good design, functional construction, and to strive for it in all endeavors, whether it is an office, building, an industrial park, or a green space. It is good consumerism to under- stand the built environment."

    Built environment education instruction includes several levels of learning: an introduction to the visual, verbal, and structural vocabulary of architecture; an exposure to the available resources: lecturers, print materials, slides and AV materials; field trip experiences (even if only in the school or school neighborhood) to practice this learning; an introduc- tion to interdisciplinary curriculum materials and projects which are currently being used in other school systems; and a final session involving issues and challenges in the built

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    Views of "Box City" with models by architects and by children.

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  • environment followed by a chance to put into practice these newly-learned skills either through development of a project, an action letter or submission of a City Beautiful Award. The program's strength lies in the fact that it naturally leads teachers and students through all thinking level skills and into learning in all curriculum areas.

    The class requirement for the course is a built environ- ment activity, complete with support materials such as slides, visuals, maps, resource center activities, ready for classroom presentation. The activity is to be matched with the teacher's own curriculum objectives, grade level, and interest. Al- though there is no guarantee that teachers will introduce their learning into the classroom, pos