Fourth- through eighth-grade youth participate in online workshops
This June, the Alberti Program: Architecture for Young People went online to host its first-ever Virtual Studio program. Young people engaged in online synchronous and asynchronous sessions from their homes, learning from WashU faculty and students.
With support from PGAV Destinations and the Divided City initiative, the Alberti Virtual Studio engaged young people in creative, hands-on learning in architecture and design. Petra Kempf, assistant professor of urban design and architecture, led a team of WashU students from architecture and humanities disciplines to create and execute a series of workshops for the thirty youth participants. Kempf worked with Min Lin (MArch22) and Maddie House-Tuck (MA21 Theatre and Performance Studies) during the spring semester to design the curriculum—which focused on the concepts and design of playgrounds—and plan a kit of parts for participants to pick up before the beginning of the program.
“Play is critical for children to develop emotional, social, and creative thinking skills – skills they need to engage with their environment,” Kempf said. “In this regard, playgrounds provide a great platform for students to develop these skills as well as to engage with the greater community they live in. Playgrounds are a boundless field for social interaction that empowers children to discover and engage beyond their own imagination.”
During the program, participants met as a full group on Friday afternoons. Between the Friday virtual meetings, pairs of WashU students led age-specific small groups in discussing ideas, curriculum, and projects.
The first Friday workshop focused on the ideas of what makes a playground, including precedents of play areas around the world. Youth participants met with their teaching assistants and small groups, spending time creating their own clay figures to represent playground users.
Over the first weekend, participants chose a local playground to explore. They sketched things they appreciated about the playground on a postcard. Participants met in small groups to learn more about the teaching assistants’ experiences with playgrounds in their childhood and their cultural context. This served as the starting point for the youth participants to discuss their own ideas and experiences, which spurred individual drawings and models of their own playground designs.
During the second Friday session, architects and designers from PGAV Destinations presented projects that evoke play and answered questions about their projects, careers, and firm. After the presentation, youth participants sought out ordinary objects around them that they could reuse as model materials or imagine as actual building materials. They sketched their objects onto a postcard, and then met with small groups to discuss their found objects. The program participants were charged to design their playgrounds with sustainability as a top goal.
During the final Friday session, participants presented their playground models and ideas to guest reviewers and their family, celebrating their creativity and learning. Although the physical setting for this summer’s program was much different than the in-person program of the past—students from as far away as China and Nepal took part!— the spirit of the Alberti Program remained unchanged. Participants were engaged with architecture and design through 2D and 3D hands on learning through self-led exploration and curiosity.
“I found that the staff and faculty of the Alberti Virtual Summer Program supported me at every turn and actualized the Program’s mission of letting the students make stuff for other kids.” said teaching assistant Giovanni Lauriello. “The curricular flexibility allowed every student and TA to be their best selves, and I was always engaged with my students and their creative aspirations.”
Stay tuned for an upcoming exhibit at the Sam Fox School featuring the collection of hand-drawn postcards and photos produced in the Alberti Virtual Studio.