Bringing Architecture to Rural Schools

January 29th

By Abby Dinger-Zach
Photos: Mrs. Kinnamon

While the COVID-19 pandemic may have brought school field trips to a screeching halt, that hasn’t stopped Taliesin Preservation’s education team from working with local classrooms. With grant support from the Greater Sauk Community Foundation, our education team spent the month of December conducting a series of virtual lessons with a local 3rd-grade class at Tower Rock Elementary School. Each week our education team virtually visited Mrs. Kinnamon’s classroom to focus on a specific hands-on activity. In week one, we learned about Wright’s principles of Organic architecture and explored shapes and space with Froebel blocks. Week 2 was focused on exploring local natural materials- students used natural materials they collected previously to identify the variety of shapes, textures, and patterns found in nature. They then used their natural materials to create a temporary work of art. In week 3, we expanded our exploration of nature by taking an image of a natural object and using it to create a geometric abstraction, much like Wright did with many of his stained glass designs. The project culminated in week 4 with the students building their own shelter models. 

Taliesin Preservation is committed to working with our local rural school districts in part because rural school children have reduced access to arts and cultural experiences that enrich their learning and understanding of the world. With the COVID-19 pandemic essentially bringing field trips to a halt, access to unique, engaging, and educational experiences has been further reduced. Taliesin Preservation seeks to bridge the gap between rural schools and arts and cultural institutions whilst also helping students develop a sense of place and be proud of where they come from. Additionally, research shows that rural students fall behind their urban and suburban peers in math and other STEAM subjects. By introducing students to real-world applications for math, engineering, and art that are project-based, we hope to inspire students to continue to be interested in STEAM areas of study. 

In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has asked many of us to evaluate and re-evaluate the question “How Might We Live Now?” and has perhaps changed our answer from what it might have been before the pandemic. Taliesin Preservation not only intends to continue to invite students we work with to explore this question through educational opportunities like the one described here but also asks that question of ourselves and our programs. In doing so, we are able to adapt to the ever-changing world, whilst also working to continue to preserve the natural, built, and cultural landscapes of the Taliesin estate.