More than a Building in 7th Grade

Seventh grade history teacher Anthony Shaker wants his students to appreciate the complexity of objects and their ability to tell much about the world and time of their origins. To achieve this end, after viewing the video This is Not a Chair in class, he challenged students to take a closer look at a famous building and determine how it is simply not just a building.

To begin this project, students determined their assignments of famous buildings by drawing from a hat. Among the wide range of options were the World Trade Center in New York; the Taj Mahal in Agra, India; the Forbidden City in Beijing, China; the Suwon Gate in Suwon, South Korea; and more. With their buildings now in mind, Shaker asked his students to perform research and closely “read” their buildings using elements of observation, interpretation and analysis to get a fuller sense of their spaces.

Students used a host of techniques, including sketching the structure from multiple viewpoints, looking at special ornamentation and landscaping elements and using Google Earth to describe the topography and geography of the surrounding area. As they examined their structures, they also kept larger interpretive questions in mind, such as the building’s function, its date of construction and its similarities or differences to surrounding structures in the area. Shaker also asked students to make inferences and analyze the information they were gathering to address questions such as, “If this building could talk, what do you think it might say?” and “Why do you think this building is famous?”

After collecting, absorbing and digesting this information, students created mini-documentaries sharing all they had learned about their assigned buildings. They detailed they ways their structures embodied at least six of the nine Universals, which anthropologists have identified as essential attributes of every civilization, including Family, Government, Religion, Arts/Entertainment, Sports/Recreation, Food/Clothing, Language/Communication, Buildings/Architecture and Work/Economy.

As a final step in this project, students made physical models of all or part of their buildings using their maker empowerment skills and the tools available in the TIDES Garage. From 3D printers and laser cutters to model magic and a range of other materials and equipment, students got crafty and created a wide variety of accurate, well-built structures reflecting their assigned buildings, leaving them with a lasting memory of how objects are much more than they seem!

Click here for more photos and examples of the mini-documentaries.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.