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This semester we have been working with Hawtree Creek middle school students in Ozone Park, Queens, NY as a 2-part residency. In the first half of the residency which finished at the end of March seventh-grade students at Hawtree Creek delved into the realm of sustainable architecture and design. Guided by ArchForKids educators, over 8 weeks, these young designers explored the principles of sustainability, discovering the importance of green spaces, green roofs, and renewable energy sources in creating environmentally-friendly communities. Through a series of interactive lessons and activities, students gained a deeper understanding of how thoughtful design choices can mitigate environmental impact and promote a more sustainable way of life.

The highlight of the residency was the hands-on project where students worked collaboratively in groups to design and build models of sustainable villages. Drawing inspiration from their newfound knowledge, students brainstormed innovative solutions to real-world challenges, incorporating elements like community gardens, solar panels, and rainwater harvesting systems into their designs. The culmination of their efforts was a final day celebration, where students proudly showcased their models to their peers and parents, demonstrating not only their creativity but also their newfound understanding of sustainability in architecture and design.

Now, as ArchForKids continues its residency at Hawtree Creek School, sixth-grade students are embarking on a new journey: vacant lot redesign. In this ongoing program, students are confronted with the stark reality of vacant lots in urban communities and challenged to envision ways to revitalize these spaces for the benefit of the community. Through a curriculum enriched with lessons on urban planning, community needs assessment, and design thinking, students are equipped with the knowledge and skills to tackle this complex problem head-on.

As they dive into the project, students are encouraged to think critically about the factors contributing to vacant lots and explore creative solutions that address the needs and aspirations of the community. From community gardens and playgrounds to outdoor art installations and gathering spaces, the possibilities are endless. With guidance from ArchForKids’ educators, students will translate their ideas into tangible models, fostering a sense of ownership and pride in their contributions to their neighborhood.

At ArchForKids, our school residencies are more than just educational programs—they are transformative experiences that empower young learners to become agents of change in their communities. By integrating project-based learning, sustainability principles, and urban planning concepts into the curriculum, we inspire students to think creatively, collaborate effectively, and make a positive impact on the world around them. Together, we are building a brighter future, one sustainable village and vacant lot redesign at a time.