Defining Quality in Arts Education

Arts Education Demonstration Project of the Marin Community Foundation

Lesson Plan: Explorations in Architecture

We've just posted a video documenting second-grade teacher researcher Ellen Franz's eight-month trans-disciplinary project sequence on Architecture, in the "Program Documentation" section. As a supplement to that, her full unit plan can be viewed and downloaded here. Here is an introductory excerpt – please feel free to add any comments, questions or observations you may have:

UNIT OVERVIEW: Why does this subject or idea matter?

The subject of Architecture can be viewed through many lenses, providing opportunity to investigate culture, history, physics, engineering, earth sciences, and visual art, as well as to develop and practice collaborative skills and the art of persistence.


Inquiry: How will students investigate the topic? What will launch them into thinking about the topic?

• Exploration of building materials:  Cuisenaire Rods, blocks, Magnatiles, Kapla Blocks, Pattern Blocks, Wedge-Its, and others


• Exploration of architecture books, including monographs, anthologies, biographies, timelines, photo books, and children’s literature/non-fiction


• Study of buildings and monuments across time:  Leaning Tower of Pisa, Eiffel Tower, Egyptian Pyramids, Aztec Pyramids, Roman Coliseum, Taj Mahal, La Sagrada Familia, Watts Towers, Chrysler Building, Transamerica Building, “Falling Water,” and others


• Study of various architects, including African American architects:  Frank Lloyd Wright, Antoni Gaudi, Julia Morgan, Frank Gehry, Michael Graves, Zaha Hadid, Robert R. Taylor, Wallace Rayfield, Amaza Lee Meredith, Paul R. Williams, Norma Merrick Sklarek, Dina Griffin, and others


• Study of artists:  Friedensriech Hundertwasser, Robert Delaunay, Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson, Matteo Pericoli, Steven Wiltshire, William Christenberry


• Study of geometry and design:  shape, line, primary and secondary colors, warm and cool colors, layering,background and foreground


WHAT IS THE BIG IDEA? (An understanding that spans many disciplines, lies deep beneath the content of a discipline, and will be important to the learner the rest of their lives.)


• Architecture—the designing and building of shelter—is practiced by human beings (and the animal kingdom) all over the world and is influenced by geography, weather, available materials, knowledge, and culture.


• Human knowledge and understanding changes over time (knowledge/understanding can both grow or be lost).


• Human beings use scientific, historic, and artistic knowledge and understanding to create architecture that will meet societal needs and interests.


• Sorting information and ideas into categories can help solidify learning.

            —Architecture can be studied within several categories:

                        –as Geometry               –as Materials

                        –as History                  –as Language

                        –as Physics                  –as Persistence

                        –as Geography             –as Collaboration

                        –as People                   –as Dreams and Ideas


• Learning to persist through difficulty and to work collaboratively are important life skills.

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