Every year, the Education department at the Skirball partners with teaching artists and a local school on a series of creative and collaborative workshops centered around an exhibition. For the current exhibition, Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie, we created a six-week in-school residency with fourth graders from Annandale Elementary School in Highland Park that focused on design and architecture. Our goal was to encourage the students to engage in problem-solving through a “design-based learning” process that linked to Global Citizen and also incorporated elements of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math). The teaching architects, Justin Rice and Kagan Taylor of the fabrication laboratory and design studio Knowhow Shop, knew just how to excite the students about designing, building, and learning.
On another day, they took a walking field trip to the Knowhow Shop, where Justin and Kagan showed them some of the shop’s projects and special tools.
After our field trips, we were back at Annandale “nailing down” the design for our project. The students worked in small groups to decide what they wanted to build and what purpose it would serve. The top picks were cubbies, planter boxes, and a seating/stage area. We decided to design a modular unit that would serve all three purposes.
Justin and Kagan brought pre-cut boards of strong, weather-resistant composite wood, all ready to be fitted, glued, hammered, and nailed together by the students. But before the students started building anything, Justin and Kagan gave us a safety demonstration.
The students filled the planter boxes with native, drought-tolerant plants with help from Linda, a horticulture expert who leads workshops at the Knowhow Shop. After six weeks of hard work, the cubby/planter/seat structure was finished! The project was a group effort in the truest sense. Now every time the fourth graders of Annandale Elementary water the plants in the structure, stash a book during recess, or sit on the structure with friends, they will be reminded of the fact that they built something with their own hands, minds, and imagination.