Architects lending their talents to teach city school students

Jan 12, 2018

The Buffalo Architecture Foundation continues collaborating with Buffalo Public Schools to enhance a child's learning. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the Architecture +Education Exhibition, featuring student projects, will open next Friday, January 19th at the CEPA Gallery in downtown Buffalo.

Over the last three months area architects volunteer their time joining some city school teachers in their classrooms. More than 225-students at five Buffalo schools were part of the Architecture+Education program.  Many of the students who participated are minority children living below the poverty line.

Luke Johnson, architect, Aaron Henderson, architect, Brad Everdyke, architect, & BAVPA arts teachers Elizabeth Larrabee and Rachel Lyons.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

The architects helped show students how Common Core is part of their profession. 

“It's a way in which we help build awareness of the built environment and also showcase architecture as a learning vehicle for a whole slew of disciplines,” remarked Luke Johnson, architect at Cannon Design.

Johnson serves as chair and VP of the Buffalo Architecture Foundation. This special program brings classroom teachers, architects and university students together to reach the school children.

“Just teaching children how to read a map – in their social studies class and then that starts to lead to avenues about their community and the maps of the communities around their school and how they’ve changed over time.  Investigating kind of links between structure and poetry and structure and buildings, and then building kind of manifestations to how that comes together in the end,” Johnson explained.

Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts teachers Elizabeth Larrabee and Rachel Lyons participated with a group of their students.    

Photos from students who participated in program as part of the exhibit at CEPA.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“Having architects coming in – it is such a key component because our students’ possibility will continue in the arts, so having to meet people in the arts and seeing what their job is like,” Larrabee described.

“And seeing the real-world application of it – this is somebody who is working in the field,” Lyons said.

Freshmen students engaged in an art project with the architect, allowing them to use math and problem solving skills.

Photos from students who participated in program as part of the exhibit at CEPA.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“Sort of investigate the idea of liberation and confinement, so we’re taking architecture concepts and how architect’s use space and applying it to art work,” Larrabee replied.

“They’re learning content. They may look at it in math class – but because they are actually making something with it – it’s kind of sticking better,” Lyons responded.

“Teaching children to see the world in that kind of a way – and to look at the build environment as something that is really malleable I think is an incredibly important way to change their world-view,” said Aaron Henderson, architect with Carmina Wood Morris. Henderson volunteered in the program.

Henderson worked with 8th graders at the Olmsted School the last three months. 

“They can see things around them and think I can make a difference – ‘I can do something to affect my environment’ instead of just being kind of products of what they are around,” Henderson described.

But Henderson said at first his students were a bit skeptical of this learning process, however, once they warmed up, he gained their enthusiasm. 

Student artwork/projects at CEPA.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

"After a few weeks it really go exciting watching the kids start to actually synthesize the things that they learned into ideas and build objects that they were responsible for and going from learning to generating,” Henderson noted.  

“It was fantastic. It was one of those things where you kind of go into it thinking one thing and you kind of get another thing, but it’s beyond anything you could imagine,” commented Brad Everdyke, architect at Carmina.

Everdyke worked with third graders at P.S. School #53-Community School where students explored developing ideas of what community means to them.

“We actually did an exercise where they pinned their place in the city where they live, so they could see where their friends live and then how they’re related to the school and so they kind of put themselves in the larger context of their own area,” Everdyke said.

Student artwork on display at CEPA created the Architecture Education Exhibition
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Other schools participating where Bennett Park Montessori and da Vinci High School.  

Architect Johnson said the program also stresses diversity.

“We know in architecture the professional field does not mirror the field that they work in or communities that they work in and this won’t be true tomorrow, right?, so in order to do this – there’s programs like this that start at a young age to begin to build that base.

Student artwork from at Architecture Education Exhibition at CEPA.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“I think it opens their eyes. It’s not something that’s completely outrageous to them, to think they could be an architect.    

Students created an array of projects including handmade neighborhood featuring all types of shapes with colorful construction paper and materials, creating buildings, homes and a streetscape.