Hands-on Education

For 25 years, Architecture Resource Center programs have used hands-on-projects to teach thousands of students design skills and better comprehend the built environment around them.

A student creates a model to scale. Photo credit: Architecture Resource Center

When an Architecture Resource Center (ARC) workshop visits the classroom, young students might be asked to design a playhouse, a new bedroom for themselves, or even an entire neighborhood. For 25 years, ARC Programs have used hands-on-projects to teach thousands of students design skills and better comprehend the built environment around them.

"Architecture is the perfect interdisciplinary vehicle. It's problem-solving using math, science, social studies," says ARC Founder and Executive Anna Marie Sanko. "We teach critical thinking and problem-solving skills that you can transfer to anything you do in life."

ARC works in partnership with area schools to bring its workshops to classrooms ranging from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Projects are typically taught over a week during an hour and a half sessions and are inclusive of all students. ARC also brings its lessons to afterschool enrichment programs such as Higher Heights and Farnam Neighborhood House.

"We are for every student, not just the 'gifted and talented,'" says Sanko. "Every student has something to offer."

Since 1991, the organization has delivered more than 2,000 workshops in the Northeast attended by 65,000 students.

A recent workshop at Mauro Sheridan Interdistrict Magnet School taught fifth graders to design and model a neighborhood. In another lesson, high school students designed their own dormitory and even estimated the costs it would take to build it.

Lessons start with what the students already know about their environment and ask them to think about how to solve specific problems such as how to transform a vacant lot into a welcoming space. The program has the goal of giving students an appreciation for how architecture and design shape the world around them.

Sanko runs teacher workshops on design education and presents curriculum ideas for integrating design principles into lesson plans throughout the year.

ARC's work has won numerous awards and attracted local, state, and national funding from various sources, including the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2015, NEA Director Jane Chu selected ARC as one of two Connecticut arts programs for a site visit. From that visit, Chu invited Sanko to Washington to present her program.

For more information about the Architecture Resource Center, visit its profile on giveGreater.org

Did you know?

By one estimate, 65 percent of students entering grade school will end up working in careers that haven't been invented yet.

This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.