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Community Impact

Apr 04, 2023

KidsBuild! Teaches Design Through Play

A30 A0045

Building together!

All images courtesy Thuy Buonocore

Whether with Legos or Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets or basic building blocks, every child at some point dreams of building big. Continuing a tradition lasting more than a quarter century, the BSA brought those dreams to life this past weekend. The BSA hosted the 31st annual KidsBuild!, pairing the imagination of local children with the guidance of working architects, and crafting the considerations of real-life construction into lessons fit for young minds. Together, the children and their caregivers—upwards of 750 participants—designed and built a model city from the ground up.

Participants began with a visit to the Building Department, where they learned from architects about building types, zoning, and height restrictions. After deciding on the kind of building they wanted to construct, the children then selected appropriately zoned lots from a grid-based plan for a fictional city. With a building permit in hand, the kids set their imaginations free.

"What's a neighborhood without a recycling center?" asked one young builder as he began to plan his construction.

The builders then visited the Materials Yard to select donated recycled construction materials ranging from shoeboxes to paper towel tubes to packing foam. With the help of architects and designers, the kids then drew plans for their building and joyfully crafted structures according to the plan.

With their constructions complete, the kids carried their buildings to their sites for an "official" groundbreaking. Practicing architects and designers— serving as KidsBuild! building inspectors—solicited explanations of each structure and inspected for compliance with each site's zoning codes. With occasional variances approved, the young builders were granted certificates of occupancy for their buildings, capping hours of play infused with lessons about how cities are built.

"It's a fun way to be creative," said Lilli Smith of Cambridge when asked about the most enjoyable and educational parts of the day. "It's a way to learn by trying and making mistakes with the materials."

“Kids didn’t have all the fun,” said Daniel Riggs AIA, senior associate at Embarc and one of 75 volunteers. "As a first-time Kidsbuild! volunteer, I was absolutely thrilled with the amount of enthusiasm and creativity the kids and their families brought to this event. As a 'building inspector,' I had the opportunity to help talk through the early, and often fantastic, notions of what a building could be. When they returned from the Construction Yard with a wonderfully realized version of that creation, the kids couldn’t wait to show off every intricate detail. That joy of creation is what brought me to this field in the first place, and to see that pure glee in the kids was rejuvenating. I left thinking 'hey, I should build something today too!'"

Through April 7, visitors to the BSA lobby at 290 Congress Street can view Northern Avenue's acclaimed FishWreck Cafe and the Turtle Hospital Aquarium—among other structures crafted by KidsBuild! participants.

The KidsBuild! program relies on volunteers who generously donate their time, as well as funding from the BSA Foundation, which gratefully accepts donations and support. Many thanks to our many volunteers and kind donors!