Fun, hands-on activities introduce students to design issues, engineering concepts and construction logistics.

  • KidsBuild! Workshop 1 | 10-Oct-2014

    Fifty eager Sandy Hook students joined us in our first KidsBuild! Workshop. With the construction of their new school already underway, this workshop focused on building facades and materials.


    As an icebreaker activity, students were asked to share how the best school in the world would look, smell, sound and feel. Some of the responses were:


    • The best school in the world would “feel like home”

    • The best school in the world would “sound like peace”

    • The best school in the world would be “colorful and inviting”


    Students were encouraged to be creative when asked to design a forest with tree houses made of popsicle sticks and leaves gathered from outside. These creations formed a collage that was combined with their drawings of building facades and material rubbings. Physical construction material samples were shared with the children so they could feel the various textures of finishes with their hands.


    To reflect the collaborative environment of the design field, students worked together to create a Lego structure.  Students described what they want the school to look like to a visitor, and together they created a Lego structure to reflect their collective vision.


  • KidsBuild! Workshop 2 | 5-May-2015

    The second workshop exposed the students to the main theme of the school – nature! As an icebreaker, students formed groups and played a game of follow the leader by mimicking the leader’s movement that resembled nature.


    At one of the three activity stations, students selected objects from a display of organic materials – pine cones, flowers, rocks, and feathers – and in groups, played with a light source and its distance to the material. One member of the team held the flashlight, while the other traced its shadow to create a composition of varying scales and profiles.


    To further the exploration of light and shadow, each child created a light catcher with foam, contact paper, and paper plates.  Students arranged their foam shapes to create a pattern and then reviewed their results by shining a flashlight in the light box.


    Design team members from Richter & Cegan, the project’s Landscape Architect, had students using their sense of touch to identify materials that were disguised in paper bags. After placing their hands in the bag, children described the materials with words and drawings before sneaking a peak into the enclosed bag.

  • KidsBuild! Workshop 3 | 17-Nov-2015

    The theme of the third workshop was -- Construction!


    To engage the students in the current construction progress of the Sandy Hook School, the team shared a compiled video with photographs of monthly updates detailing construction from the beginning through the present.


    Following, the students enjoyed a custom game created just for them called “What’s That Sound?”  First, sound  bites were played of typical construction site sounds.  After a few guesses by the participants, a countdown revealed the video of the sound source from the site for students to associate the sound bite to the equipment. The equipment identified was: a forklift, backup alarm, a boom lift, bulldozer, chipping hammer, a drill, an impact driver, a mason’s saw, a mason’s hammer, and a topsoil screener.


    Hands-on activities followed where each student used a screwdriver to assemble a wooden birdhouse that resembles the shape of the tree house rooms at the new school.  With glitter, paint, glue, and wood decals galore, the birdhouses started to reflect the artistic vision of each artist.


    Masons then introduced the students to the materials that go into building a masonry wall prior to having volunteers trowel grout onto the brick and begin to form a wall.  Students were also able to wiggle their fingers in a bin of sand, add water, and mix the products with a wooden spoon to create their own version of a grout.

  • KidsBuild! Workshop 4 | Spring 2016

    The fourth workshop explored what the world would look like in the Future! Together, the students brainstormed responses to the question “If we can make the world together, what do you hope the world will be like in 10 years.” From this imaginative group of students, their answers varied to include responses such as “flying cars, it will always be summer, and gravity wouldn’t exist.”  From the gathered responses, 6 themes emerged:


    1. World of food

    2. Everything flies

    3. Animals are free

    4. Precious metal world

    5. Kids rule the world

    6. Robots do everything


    Students then rotated between 6 tables that represented each of the themes to creatively express themselves in 2D and 3D.  Materials ranged from play-do to felt, construction paper to wooden sticks,  markers to streamers.


    From the drawings and sculptures made by the kids, lines were transposed into artwork to adorn six banners that are fixed to the light poles that line the driveway into the school grounds. A graphic representation that anything is possible, now or in the future.



KidsBuild! is a hands-on educational program developed by Svigals + Partners to engage students in the design and construction process of their new school. As a result students become stewards of their school – able to share key features of the design with their peers, and able to care about the maintenance of its systems. This sense of ownership transcends to future occupants of the building.


Svigals + Partners has successfully run this program at three New Haven Schools: L.W. Beecher Museum School of Arts and Sciences, Columbus Family Academy, and currently at the Engineering & Science University Magnet School. In a series of workshops with students from each school, various activities were run to introduce students to architecture, engineering, building construction, and related disciplines.


At Sandy Hook School, Svigals + Partners has begun to introduce students from 2nd to 4th grade to design topics of thematic relevance to their new school as well as the construction process. Two workshops were held in the 2014-2015 school year, and two more will be held in the 2015-2016 school year.


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