Teaching the engineering section in the Next Generation Science Standards has posed a challenge for many science teachers. Architecture activities can help connect them to other science concepts.
To expand upon concepts in physics, calculus, geometry, engineering, and algebra, teachers can use architecture activities for greater student understanding. Architecture is no longer an area of study that simply covers building homes and commercial structures. The concentration also includes things like environmental design, landscape architecture, and urban planning. Here are some activities that can bridge the divide between traditional science and engineering concepts in your classroom.
1. Weathering the Storm
If there is one aspect of life on Earth that humankind can’t control, it is nature and its ability to alter communities with a single natural disaster. Challenge students to study the weather patterns of a particular community that is susceptible to a particular type of severe weather, such as hurricanes or tornadoes. Combining chemistry and engineering concepts with climate data and weather mapping, students should develop emergency shelter plans that will work for this particular region.
The demand for solar panels to power homes and buildings has led to new challenges for architects. Through NOVA’s “NOVA scienceNOW: Solar Panels for Your Home,” students will study the scientific concepts that allow solar panels to function. After examining the information and watching the video, students will engage in architecture activities, which culminate with students describing how they would design a house to maximize its efficiency.
3. The Affordable Housing Challenge
Each year, the Chicago Architecture Foundation hosts the DiscoverDesign competition based on architecture activities for students who are interested in improving the world through design. In 2016, students were tasked with creating a prototype for affordable housing in a city of their choice. Not only will students design a housing prototype, they must also calculate approximate cost and study demographic data for the community in which they wish to build. Stay tuned for information regarding next year’s challenge.
An ongoing project that will allow students to see their efforts grow from conceptual to an actual end product is building a school garden. Teachers who have access to a schoolyard can contact administrators for permission, but educators can also create a small garden within the classroom by building a sturdy frame and assigning to students the task of using engineering concepts to design effective watering and drainage systems.
5. Have a Game Day!
Combine station-based learning with architecture activities by including one group area dedicated to games that will challenge student abilities to think critically regarding physics and geometry. Include games such as Jenga and Topple that allow students to build, yet also require them to consider factors including weight, distance, and balance prior to moving their pieces. Ask students to reserve the last few minutes of their station-based session for listing the STEM concepts they used to strategize and how these approaches affected the game.
As emphasis on sustainable building practices continues to increase, students must be challenged with activities that will allow them to think about these challenges. Regardless of whether students pursue careers in design, architecture activities in the classroom provide experiences that allow children to think about improving their communities in meaningful ways.