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Timmy Robison assembles a tire swing.
Architecture project brings professional into classroom posted on 03/01/2017

David Hernandez, a fifth grader at Welches Elementary School, and his group took to the internet to come up with ideas for their architecture project, which entailed designing playground equipment and creating a model of it. The group decided on a boat, featuring slides, a tunnel, bouncy chairs, a climbing wall, barrels, a steering wheel and more.

“I’ve just seen boats with slides and rock climbing walls on the side, but some stuff we have now I’ve never seen,” said Hernandez, 10.

The project is part of the Architecture Foundation of Oregon’s Architects in Schools program, pairing architects and design professionals with classroom teachers. For the project at Welches, students in fifth and third grade classes were put together in small groups, also offering the opportunity for different age groups to interact.

Third grader Adam Pintado, 9, was in the same group with Hernandez, and noted it was a benefit to work with a more advanced student.

“The older kids are smarter, so they’ll know what to do,” Pintado said.

Hernandez also found benefits in working with some younger students.

“Their imagination has other things and other ideas,” he said. “They come up with good ideas.”

The group including fifth grader Jeb Payne and third grader Bradley Nelson came up with some ideas that would be welcome in most living rooms, not just on the playground. Their tree house includes a flat screen TV, soundproofing, a kitchen, a couch and candy, in addition to more traditional features such as a rock climbing wall, a slide and “a bouncy thing.”

“We all had different ideas,” said Payne, 10. “We all wanted something different so it was hard to figure out what we could do.”

After students came up with their designs, approval was needed from Mechanical Engineer Roger Arnold, Jr. from the Portland engineering firm Glumac, including an official stamp, before construction of the model could begin.

“It’s actually kind of good because we get this awesome stamp,” said Nelson, 8.

Fifth grader Olivia Daniels noted her group researched playground ideas in books, and landed on including a tire swing in order to have it last longer in the mountain weather. She added that the group did end up coming to the same conclusion, despite the potential for disagreement.

“Sometimes, if someone else has an idea, things can get squiggly, like messed up, where someone doesn’t like something,” said Daniels, 10. “The funny thing is, when we were doing it, we all wanted to do a tire swing and a bench swing.”

Ellie Garmon, a third grader who worked with Daniels, added that the tire swing would be a good change from the others at the school’s playground.

“We already have a ton of swings,” said Garmon, 8.

Fifth grade teacher Kalee Adams noted that the hands-on project offers an introduction to a career that uses a variety of skills, including math, art and science. She added that students from both grades were excited to work on the project and that the lessons they learned were evident elsewhere in their studies.

“I've noticed students use vocabulary learned from Roger, or this program, while independently reading, or researching for their expository essays,” Adams wrote in an email. “The connections across our curriculum have started to present itself. It's truly exciting to witness as a teacher.”

Arnold said that when he first presented to the students, he connected his career in engineering to playing with Lego blocks as a child. He’s completed a myriad of projects, including an airport in Las Vegas, Nev. and a movie theater outside Washington, D.C., and connected his work now to what inspired him in his youth.

“The concept being, if you can build it in Legos, you can build it in real life,” Arnold said. “Legos are great because you can make your imagination wander and build whatever you want out of it.”

This is Arnold’s first endeavor with the Architects in Schools program, which he sees as a good way to introduce kids to the field at an early age, particularly those groups that are currently underrepresented.

“There’s not enough women or minorities in engineering,” he said. “This is the opportunity to affect that change, when kids are young and passionate about something new, that there are role models out there that can get them to an engineering career.”

March 17 update: a special reception presenting the design projects will be held from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, March 22, at the Hoodland Library, 24525 Welches Road, and is open to the general public. The projects will be on display at the library from Wednesday, March 22 through Monday, April 3.

By Garth Guibord/MT

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