Elementary Studio Lesson
Building a Better
A Simple Idea Made Complex
As an art educator, I understand how simple materials can be used to create
complex structures. Yet,
sometimes what we need is a spark
of inspiration to connect those
available materials to have an idea
grow to fruition. When we allow
ourselves to think creatively, we
can inspire our students to greater
understanding of both materials and
The only materials used in these
workshops are rubber bands and
wooden dowels of various diameter
and length. It is the architectural
knowledge of the presenter that is
key to the content and will inspire
students to transform these simple
materials into complex structures.
tectural terms and ideas. Individual
students began by making tetrahedrons using the shorter dowels.
These were combined with other
students’ structures to create larger
trusses. Structures like these simulate the ones used to support buildings and bridges.
In the U.S. workshops, students
were first introduced to many archi-
Students developed an understanding of the difference between
a tetrahedron and a pyramid and
how that form impacted both the
strength and overall support of a
For a number of years, I have
worked with a highly creative non-profit organization called Architectural Workshops, located in Cambridge, England. My position with
this organization has varied over
time as I have presented workshops
in Cambridge, England, and at the
Pompidou Center in Paris.
Architectural Workshops has
developed a series of workshops for
elementary, middle, and high-school
students throughout Great Britain.
The presenters travel to a wide
range of state- and tuition-funded
schools, inspiring students to have
a better understanding of the built
environment. Most recently, Architectural Workshops worked in
the U.S. at a local elementary and
middle school with students from
grades three, four, and five.