Parthenon, Athens, Greece

For three days in October a sub-committee of the CHHPAC spent an hour with the 4th and 5th graders who spend afterschool at The Jones Community Center.We had a goal. Show kids that old buildings are cool – and that regardless of their condition, a little TLC can make the shabby shine again.
We first looked at different styles around the world, from the stuffy to the funky.  Like these–>

Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright

Geodesic Dome, Bukminster Fuller

We looked at shapes – who knew we could find so many in buildings? Then we taught them a lesson in historic equipment as I struggled to make a non-carrosel-type slide projector work. Yipes! But, they loved seeing the actual slides. We all looked at an old brick with a name stamp on it. We talked about materials and how we make materials, how that has changed over time, and then looked at architectural drawings on vellum. ooohh

The next day they seemed to have a good time actually looking at the slides projected – I had figured out how to use the vintage slide projector – and putting together puzzles of houses of different styles. They also got to touch and hold a piece of art glass, counting the panes, and a terra-cotta roofing tile. They seemed very interested in these items.

On the third day there were many proud to tell me they lived in an old house, and even the year it was built. We talked about places that matter to us, our homes, churches, schools, and the Jones Community Center. We also talked about why we keep old buildings.

Why is it important to save items and places? We talked about the three reasons.

1)Because they are beautiful or interesting to look at and provide “visual enhancement” to the area.

Before and after of a house (Dallas, TX)

2) They are still useful, sturdy and can be re-used rather than be wasted and create more garbage in a landfill. Once cleaned up, or with regular maintenance, shabby places can look new again.

3) The place/structure has a special history, provides a link to that history, and helps us – and future generations – remember.  Tactile history, just like the brick, or terra-cotta roofing tile, gives our minds something to make history real.

How do you explain the reasons for preservation to children?  I try to work it in when I can with my own. Pointing buildings out as we pass, the details that I find attractive, or predominant shapes. Wondering out loud what an empty building could be re-used for, or where all the debris will go when something is demolished. We talk over old pictures, or the reasons why I value the old dresser we have over a newer one.

History gives us a sense of belonging to something, and kids get it – if you give them the chance.

Here are some of the links we used for our project:

The National Park Service – Teaching with Historic Places

National Trust for Historic Preservation – My House Matters

Architecture – It’s Elementary!


**All pictures in this post are not our own and have been borrowed from another website, a while back, and therefore do not have a link. You probably knew that, but I will work harder in the future to keep track of borrowed images and their original locations.