As a child there were subjects in school that I figured were pointless. Why exactly did I have to learn about social studies? History was another subject I dreaded, except for my eighth-grade teacher in Belleville, IL. He somehow made it interesting. In my physical education class, we were forced to learn to square dancing. And no, I’m not kidding! That was seventh grade in East St. Louis, IL. While I was always an honor roll student, I still struggled with the importance of some of these classes. My two favorite subjects were art and math. I didn’t care whether I would use art or not in the real world – for some reason, it was just important to me. I also loved everything about math. I didn’t understand how I would use geometry, trigonometry, and calculus in the real world, nor did I care. As I progressed through college, I discovered how those different branches of math came in handy through my developed passion and studies – Architecture. I found myself solving spatial problems with mathematical solutions. The best part of architecture was the realization that my two favorite subjects, Art and Math, were merged together into a perfect career path. How teachers failed to mention this field to me in elementary school is beyond me! Nevertheless, when I developed my love for numbers, I always referred to money; Relating the numbers with something tangible like money, made it fun for me. Had I known that I could have related the numbers to something else that involved my own creativity, I would’ve been in heaven!
I recently had the opportunity to introduce 90 third grade students to architecture through one of the Next Great Architects (NGA) charrettes. NGA was to fill in during three periods of the regularly scheduled art class. The children were fully engaged in their design projects. While they were focused into their design process, one of the math teachers came in to observe. She saw the tasks they were fulfilling and asked me if I could make a connection to math considering the children would soon be entering a new topic of areas and perimeters. She figured it would be beneficial to her and the students for me to explain how math is indeed used in real life through this opportunity. This was a full circle moment for me. I was excited for the chance to foster thinking that would help these students make the connections between school subjects and the real world. While they worked, I talked about how architects used the square footages to determine how big a space is and how much it would cost. Once I finished with the talk, the students knew that square footages were the same as areas while linear feet are synonymous with perimeters. I disclosed to them how to count the square footage of a room by using objects in the room like the ceiling, walls or floors. Essentially, I attempted to give them every tool that they would need to be able to see the numbers and problems in math as spatial and tangible architecture. That was a turning point for NGA. Because of those 90 third grade students, we found the need for charrettes that focus on math. Next Great Architects now has architectural curriculum that focuses on art, science, sustainability, technology, engineering and/or math. As I have stated before, ARCHITECTURE IS THE HOME OF ALL THINGS STEM! Let’s help the children make connections with their school work to the real-world situations through architecture!