ACT Students Design MI Learning Space as Part of City-wide Design LAB Challenge

ACT Students Design MI Learning Space as Part of City-wide Design LAB Challenge

Mason Intermediate School fifth graders in Gifted Intervention Specialist Vicki Chappell and Lynne Hutchinson's nine classes are designing a Learning Space for their school as part of a city-wide Design LAB Challenge.


This year's Design Lab theme asked students to look around their school and determine what learning space is needed, or a space that needs redesigned to better meet the needs of students and staff. The students brainstormed ideas and developed a list of questions to ask their "clients," also known as fellow students in grades 4-6. Each design group interviewed clients from each of the three grade levels to offer a variety of perspectives based on the age of the client. This feedback along with the students' own critical thinking, helped shape the design.


Chappell and Hutchinson's 200 students worked with five volunteer architects/designers.


Both of Chappell's volunteers from last year, Danielle Henry and Gerald Stanley, returned this year. Stanley is with VSWC architects in Mason, the firm that also designed all of Mason City Schools' buildings. According to Chappell, not only did Stanley give students the site plans for Mason Intermediate, he also gave students the "inside scoop on why certain design elements were included."


"It was delightful to be able to share my passion and experience with the students of Mason Intermediate. I am very proud of the amount of time, dedication and attention to detail from the students, volunteers and the educators to reach our goals. This project is a great tool for exploring critical thinking skills, group discussion/activity and creativity. Every student's hard effort and understanding of the built environment comes to show in each and every project, down to the smallest of detail," said Stanley, VSWC Architects?.


Students also worked with Gulen Cevick, a doctoral candidate in architecture and a professor at Miami University.


Hutchinsons' professional volunteers include Jaipal Singh, who works with FRCH Design Worldwide and who helped with the morning classes. The afternoon classes were assisted by Leigha Carman, a Mason High School and UC DAAP program graduate who now works as a designer for The Kroger Co.


The architects took the students on a tour of MI's campus and pointed out not only design elements, but also suggestions on where to build and why architects place buildings where they do.


"The children LOVED having our volunteers with us. They took the suggestions of the volunteers to heart and willingly accepted feedback, knowing that these professionals had their best interest in mind," shared Chappell.


Fifth graders had to learn a variety of architecture and design vocabulary, like cross-section, insulation, sustainability, and ecosystem, to be successful at their job of designing the dwelling place. Students built all their models to scale, learned and applied all six steps of The Design Process, worked collaboratively in their group, and collected and documented evidence of their planning, research and design. The project provided an opportunity for learning real-world skills like staying focused and on task, demonstrating respect for materials and supplies, personal accountability and responsibility, as well as self-control of words, emotions and behaviors. Students also incorporated sustainable elements like solar panels, rain water collection systems, or living walls/roofs - reinforcing the fifth graders' understanding of how design impacts the environment.


"We would like to give a big thanks to VSWC architects here in Mason for donating materials at no cost to the students," shared Chappell. "They were wonderful in supplying not only the site plan for our school, but also the special grid  paper that students used to create their own designs, just like real architects!"


Projects that receive the highest scores from the judges will go to the city-wide competition at the Main Branch of the Hamilton County Public Library on May 3. The regional event will consist of 100 competing teams and is sponsored by the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA)


The Design Fair exhibit week will be open to the public from April 30-May 7. The exhibit is open to anyone interested in seeing projects created by students grades K-12 from the Greater Cincinnati area.

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