Imagine 5th and 6th grade students donning hard hats and safety glasses, helping to design and build their own school, and then acting as energy conscious stewards for the facility. For public school children in New Haven, CT, Kids Build, an educational program developed by architecture firm Svigals + Partners, in conjunction with the New Haven School Construction Program, is allowing them to do just that. By offering participants the opportunity to gain firsthand experience working with architects, construction managers, and tradespeople, Kids Build offers career mentoring, side by side with lessons in art, science, and math.
The Kids Build program is intended to educate schoolchildren about the design, construction, and maintenance of their new schools. Students are involved in the design and ongoing maintenance, becoming “stewards” who can responsibly care for their schools and help younger students learn about these important values.
Kids Build is an energy conscious program that supports the City of New Haven’s efforts to reduce energy use in schools. It provides opportunities for schoolchildren to explore career paths in architecture, design and building/construction and is supported by New Haven Public Schools.
With two schools completed under the program—the Beecher School in 2006 and The Columbus Family Academy in 2008, participants are gearing up for a third project at the Engineering and Science University Magnate School.
Throughout the construction of each school, groups of 30 5th and 6th grade students meet for four two-hour workshops. Activities include exploring the office of Svigals +Partners, visiting construction
trailers, participating in discussions with the architects, construction managers, and tradespeople, and touring the schools at various stages of construction.
Students in past projects hailed from several New Haven Public Schools and included several of those who would be entering the new schools upon completion. Once the schools opened, these students prepared a presentation of their Kids Build experience for their classmates.
New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, Jr., has said: “Kids Build is an innovative way to introduce city students to meaningful careers in architecture and construction and also to teach them to be proud of their schools. The City’s $1.5 billion Citywide School Construction program presents a great opportunity for kids to learn more about how to care for assets like their own schools. Kudos to Svigals + Partners for their involvement.”