Home construction builds math skills
Manzanita students doing 'something beyond their years.'
KINGMAN - While fifth-graders at Manzanita may not know who Frank Lloyd Wright is, they are getting the opportunity to follow in his footsteps.
Scott Taylor's class are in the midst of "Ours by Design," a two-month project where students design a floor plan and build a scale home.
"It's amazing, the first day we did it, how many ideas they came up with," he said.
In his 16 years at Manzanita, Taylor would usually teach his students about mathematics through building a bridge during a 15-day span.
While the project is a first for Taylor, former Manzanita teacher Al Snyder has done the class project for more than three decades. "These fifth-graders are being asked to do something beyond their years," Snyder said. "This sort of thing is usually done in high school."
Since the New Jersey resident retired, he comes back to Kingman in the spring of every year to lead the project in a classroom.
"This project has been a part of Manzanita School for 30 years, but this may be the last year, since it cannot be done in an overcrowded room of 30 students," Snyder said. "It would be too difficult to supervise and not enough physical space to walk in."
When he started the classroom assignment in 1976, it was called "Where We Live." Students had all year to build models of their own homes. "Time was not a factor since I was with my own students all day, all school year," Snyder said.
Now, he works around the teacher's schedule, Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards testing and spring break. Students currently can design any one-story home they want, as long as it has no more than three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Once the houses are complete, a selected group of community members will judge the students' work on April 29. The judges award best overall home, first through third place for exterior, and first through third place for interior. Then there is an open house viewing on April 30.
While self-discipline is vital, Snyder said, creativity is a must if students expect to catch the attention of a judge. "What they learn about architecture from the ground up is something they will have the rest of their lives," Snyder said.
"The bottom line of 'Ours by Design' is to enable what most grownups consider 'children' to comprehend the adult world and be comfortable living at that level through understanding."