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Community Impact

Jun 01, 2023

A Curriculum Grows in Boston: BSA Expands Early Childhood Architecture Lessons

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Mayor Michelle Wu at "Our Boston."

Photo by Thuy Buonocore

During the 2017-2018 school year, when the BSA first participated in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) kindergarten construction unit, no one envisioned that a pandemic would hit and transform learning—both during and after the epidemic.

This year marks the six-year anniversary of the BSA's architecture curriculum, developed in partnership with the BPS Early Childhood Department as part of their ten-week unit on construction. And it also heralds the expansion of the BSA curriculum through a new teacher-guided lesson plan, enabling teachers to facilitate discussions that at one time only took place with architects who visited classrooms. With this new approach, the curriculum is now available to all 250 BPS kindergarten classrooms for in-person learning.

The expansion comes none too soon for many schools and students. After years of lockdown and remote learning, administrators, teachers, kids, and parents alike are eager for in-person and hands-on learning activities. The combination of the teacher-guided lesson, architects' classroom visits, and the "Our Boston" project—a supplemental unit in which students design and construct building models—allows for that opportunity. Not only are the kids working together to generate ideas and make them real, but they are also showcasing their work in their classrooms and at the BSA for all to see.

History of the Kindergarten Architecture Curriculum

Starting with 15 classrooms in 2017-2018, the BSA's kindergarten architecture curriculum has woven critical life skills, such as collaboration and problem-solving, into classroom chats with architects and hands-on activities related to the architecture profession. Students learn about the various places that make up the city, share thoughts about their own neighborhood, and discuss what might need to be added or changed.

When COVID hit, this program that began in a handful of classrooms soon grew to more than 100 classrooms on a virtual and hybrid basis. But today, with the pandemic receding and children back in classrooms, the expanded curriculum has taken on new interest: helping students in classrooms throughout the Greater Boston region reengage with their peers, their communities, and their physical surroundings.

This year, students engaged in a challenge, set by Mayor Michelle Wu, to design a "safer, fairer, and more interesting city for kids.” Back in the classroom, teachers have used the design process and the BSA/BPS curriculum to support students in brainstorming solutions and working in teams to bring their ideas to life.

Reengagement: "Our Boston" Exhibition

The students' reengagement culminated, in no small part, in "Our Boston: Voices of Kindergarten," an exhibit of the students' construction paper and cardboard designs. On a recent Saturday in May, the BSA invited Boston-area kindergarteners, their proud parents, teachers, school administrators, and others to celebrate and view models assembled by a subset of classrooms that received a visiting architect this spring; these models reflect the students’ community concerns and ideas for engagement. Mayor Wu was also in attendance, listening to the children’s ideas of what a more safe and fair Boston would look like. Among their productions were a community swap facility, where community members can share and trade items that their families may need; apartment dance studios to allow everyone to dance and share their favorite music, and a park space with buddy benches, where all children can find a friend. More than 700 students representing 28 classrooms from 18 BPS schools participated in the exhibition hosted by the BSA and shared their creative building designs, which remained on display for a week at Waterfront Square.

The public is invited to view highlights from the Our Boston exhibition in our online gallery.