Thursday, January 28, 2010

Homeschool: Studying Architecture

 Last semester the boys asked if we could study architecture after Christmas.   I promised that we would and began digging and exploring.      Architecture seemed so simple when they mentioned it, but I have now realized that there are just so many tie ins for this one subject.      Science, math, technology, engineering, and history are the first obvious ones that come to mind, but I have realized that we can tie this unit into just about every subject area.       I thought I would share with you some of the links, projects and ideas I gathered that we are using for our architecture study.     

The best part of this unit is that I let the boys kind of direct the unit by choosing the people and places they wanted to study.     The only requirement is that if I let them choose then I got to choose at least one "weird" one for them to research.    Their involvement means that they will want to learn more and more and more!

Some People To Study:   Frank Lloyd Wright, Marion Mahonney Griffin, William Le Baron Jenney, Louis Sullivan, Thomas Jefferson, Noah (my choice)

Some Places to Study:   Big Ben,  Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Monticello, The Gherkin (my choice)

Lesson Plans
We are pulling bits and pieces of information from the various lesson plans I found on the internet.  

Huntsville City Schools Architecture Lesson Plans
(K-5)  Great vocabulary and great art lessons.      

MTSU Architecture Lesson Plans
Bag buildings, building with bricks, construction work, etc...

Construction, Trade and Building Lesson Plans
This is not something you would normally include in lesson plans at school, but the boys are eating it up!!   Cabinet installation, drawing a floor plan, folk toy projects, measuring and marking wood.... There are a lot of good lessons here.

Architecture:  It's Elementary

Teaching with Historic Places
These lessons, based on sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places, are free and ready for immediate classroom use by students in history and social studies classes.

Architecture in Mississippi
I have to include our home state in our architecture studies.    This lesson encourages investigation of a variety of architectural styles used throughout the state’s history.


Uberstix are touted to be the building tool of future architects.      My boys enjoy these a lot.    They do not have enough to build a entire building because we haven't found any of these kits on sale.

I just can't see spending a lot of money when we already have so many great architectural basics around the house.    It is all in how you look at your toys when you are homeschooling, isn't it.   For example what could tie into an architecture unit better than Lincoln Logs?   or a basic set of blocks?   or that giant set of Legos?

One of our favorite things to build with is K'Nex.     They have an AMAZING set for an architecture series.    It includes buildings, structures and machines.    It has enough materials to support two students (perfect for us!).   What does that mean?   Eight of the models can be built two at a time!     The models include:   Eiffel Tower, Seattle Space Needle, Flying Buttress System, Windmill, Big Ben, Crane, Arc de Triomphe, the CN Tower and the first Iron Bridge.     One of the best things about a K'nex education set is the teacher's guide that comes along with it as well!  

There is a great deal of geometry in architecture.    

Math-Kitecture    The boys have been able to use estimation, measuring skills, proportion, and ratios by hand-drafting a floor plan of their classroom to scale. They then use existing classroom software to create a computer-aided design (CAD) version.

Mathline   How much material are you going to need to finish your project?   This calculates the amounts of lots of different materials such as concrete.   

Pyramid Math - Architecture using an algebra basic:  the commutative property!  

Bucky's Blueprints and Geometry Workshop at are both great!     


 Creation - God was the greatest architect ever.   He CREATED the world!     I strongly recommend Answers in Genesis for all your creation studies.

Solomon's Temple - It took 7 years to build!

Tower of Babel  

Noah's Ark - What were the most important factors in Ark construction? First stability. Then, efficient use of material.  The plan God gave Noah was amazing, but the shapes shown in children’s books and elsewhere are actually ridiculously unstable.    This great book shows the truth.  

3D Bible Project - Tour Solomon's Temple, Moses' Temple and Noah's Ark

This is a broad subject considering all architecture is really art! 
Draw 50 Buildings  From the Eiffel Tower to the Taj Mahal -- step by step instructions for 50 man-made and natural structures from around the world are drawn here.

Architecture Journal    Since we are studying the different periods and styles in architecture, the boys are taking their cameras around our area and finding examples of those different styles.    They take photos and paste them in their journal.     They are also looking in magazines and newspapers for examples. 

The Sky Is The Limit       This is a great art lesson using skylines as its basis.     Artwork is done on grey paper with white and black pencils.    Instead of highlighting with grey (as is typical), you highlight with white because the paper is grey.   The results are so great!

Box City  When I saw this Advent Calendar on Artist Woman's blog I knew I was going to snag it for our architecture series.      So perfect for studying city layout, isn't it?!?       Such a cheap project too.    Just start saving all those leftover boxes NOW.  


Famous Architects - Great site to read about famous architects and their life's work!

Explore the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright, divided here into 10 periods spanning his life of 91 years on this PBS website.

There are so many new terms when you start an architecture unit.   This online illustrated dictionary is great for definitions as well as photo illustrations.     All photos are taken in the Buffalo, NY area.     This sparked an idea for us to do a similar thing in our area. 


Not just an architecture site, but great science and history tie ins on this NOVA website.  

Understand why George Washington was so revered during his lifetime and beyond, and learn why it took 100 years to complete this famous monument in his honor.

Tools and Kits

Architecture Kit
The Architecture and Engineering sets contain the most popular products — two tubes of 2mm Lumograph lead in 4H and H, a Technico 9mm lead holder with clip, one sandpaper lead pointer, a masterbow compass, 6" protractor, an 8" and 10" triangle, a Mars plastic eraser, erasing shield, mini dusting brush, and 12" triangular architect's or engineer's scale in a sturdy plastic carrying case with easy-open zip lock.

Architectural Templates
A variety of templates available for about $10 each including house furnishings, house plan and plumping, and professional builders.

Lego Architecture
The John Hancock Center, The Empire State Center, The Seattle Space Needle are just tip of the architecture gold mine in the Lego Architecture series.     This great website also is a great resource for structural wonders.

I found great puzzles in the Michael's Dollar Bins.    They had several like the one you see in the picture ranging from $3 - $5.    I paid $5 for this puzzle and Amazon is selling exact one for $30.    Michael's is a wonderful thing!

I also found some architecture kits at Pier 1 of all places.   We bought Big Ben, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and The Eiffel Tower (see in pic).     We got them in the clearance section after Christmas for about $3 each.    These 3d kits are put out by "World's Greatest Architecture".

Barnes and Noble was the source of our next two finds....
This balloon architecture kit was a lot of fun for my older son, but quite challenging for my younger son.     The instructions were not always as detailed as we might have needed.     However, the great thing was since it was a kit using balloons we just bought more balloons when we made a mistake!

Finding Four Extraordinary Skyscrapers was a steal from the clearance section in my opinion!   A big bonus was the deck of illustrated cards which formed a tower that shows the famous skyscrapers on each side and functions as a lamp when finished.     Now I wish I had bought two of these kits!

Great Books

The Architecture Pack
A work of art in itself, The Architecture Pack is a highly sophisticated version of the beloved pop-up book that offers a unique, cross-cultural, three-dimensional tour of architecture through the centuries. By flipping the elaborately engineered pages, we learn what architects do, how they do it, and all about the great buildings of the world from antiquity to the present. It's packed with information and hands-on activities, models, fold-outs, pop-ups, and 3-D glasses; readers can even fold out a miniature version of the Colosseum in Rome or a French Gothic cathedral.
My son is fascinated with Frank Lloyd Wright so finding this interactive book which included a CD in the bargain bin at Books A Million was a steal.    It was a wonderful book that includes a collection of his photos, previously unpublished architectural sketches, and copies of various documents written by and to Mr. Wright himself.   

We have loved this book so much that I am now anxious to add the Thomas Jefferson book which is done in a similar style.   Thomas Jefferson is known as the architect of America and definitely one of our "architects to know".  

Great Links

Paper Toys    Build Wrigley Field, the U.S. Capitol Building, the Frank Lloyd Wright house, Taj Mahal, the White House, Big Ben, Eiffel Tower and many more out of PAPER!     We LOVE this website  especially on rainy days.    I keep a stash of card stock just so they can print things out from this site.

This quiz sponsored by HGTV determines your architecture personality.   At the end of the quiz it tells you about the different styles of architecture.    This is definitely geared more towards adults than students, but the boys loved taking the tests lots of different ways to see what types of styles they could produce.     

"archKIDecture was established in 1996 to encourage visual literacy and explain math, science and visual arts concepts through the medium of architecture."    I couldn't have described it any better!

Love this website which is broken down by grades:  K-5.      Younger students will design a home to older students designing cities.    All subjects are incorporated into these architecture studies and vocabulary is included.   

Building Big
PBS developed this site for use with the five-part series Building Big by David Macaulay. It covers bridges, domes, skyscrapers, dams, and tunnels. Interactive activities allow children experience with the challenges of design and construction for each of these structure types as well as engineering labs that cover forces, loads, materials, and shapes.


Dr. Wifey said...

wow! there is a ton of ways to study architecture. looks like you have done your share of homework as well :)

RT said...

When I was an English major, I had to read theory/essays on why folks thought different types of architecture were important for the time period and reflected the beliefs of the period (for ex. Romantic Era vs. Victorian Era...). Finding those kinds of essays might get across critical thought (analysis and support). It also helps in the understanding of literature when those types of things are included (not assuming you do not know that already).

I just thought of you, and that's why I popped over to your site. I was reading a devotional online and saw this homeschool link for Liberty. You might find it interesting...if not, no harm done. :)

Allison Drinkwater Johnson said...

As an architect and a mom, I completely agree with how the topic of architecture can be a gateway to many other fields of study.
I have just started a free online architecture course for kids 10-110 at It is for all people, not just those who might want to be architects one day.
allison drinkwater johnson

Zariah said...

This is daughter is interested in this field..I was wondering if you used all this items that you listed or just a few? And what did you like and what would you just not bother with? I guess Im just curious of how everything turned out...thanks