University of South Florida

College of The Arts

University of South Florida

USF Architecture Students Conduct Workshop for Migrant Pre-K Students

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

USF architecture student Ana Meneses sits at a table with three VPK students as they build model houses.

USF architecture student Ana Meneses sits with students in the Cork Elementary migrant VPK class as they design their own model houses.

USF architecture students brought their design expertise to a classroom of voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK) students at Cork Elementary in Plant City for the Great American Teach-In on November 15.

The class comprises 11 students from migrant families who might not otherwise learn directly from three senior architecture students and USF Research Associate and Professor Josue Robles.

“When it’s quiet like this, it’s a success,” said Wanda Camacho, assistant teacher in the migrant VPK classroom at Cork and sister of Robles, as her students worked on the hands-on design activity. “They’re into it.”

After Robles introduced students to the role of an architect, he and his students, seniors Nazia Hirani, Ayda Doost, and Ana Meneses, passed out their thin cardboard “kit of parts” to the class. The kit was designed and laser-cut at the USF School of Architecture and Community Design. The cutouts can be punched out to form shapes of houses, trees, animals, and architectural components such as windows and doors. Students used these shapes to build their own architectural models.

“You are going to be able to build a little house that you can take home with you at the end of the day,” Robles said to the class. “We are going to be able to help you, but you, in essence, will be able to do what you want.”

USF architecture student helps a VPK student use a bottle of glue while he works on his house design.

Nazia Hirani helps a student use glue during the hands-on design activity.

This is the second time Robles and his students have visited Cork Elementary for the Great American Teach-in. Last year, he and his students gave a presentation and workshopped to a group of three VPK classes. 

This year’s visit was scaled down for more individualized attention, and the kit of parts was redesigned after receiving student input. Students noted how all the trees and windows were identical. This year’s kit contains new trees and windows. Other new additions include houses printed to resemble different materials, mimicking how architects choose different materials to best suit specific applications.

Robles called students’ attention to how the animals in the kit are much smaller than the buildings. This sense of scale is something that architects consider when designing buildings and making models.

Last year, a student took his finished house design home and brought it back to school colored. Taking inspiration from the eager student, Camacho’s students had the opportunity to color their designs in-class later in the week to further customize their creations.

Josue Robles explains the kit of parts to the class.

Josue Robles explains the laser-cut "kit of parts" to the VPK students.

At the end of the class, Camacho asked her students who among them wants to be an architect. The students erupted in an enthusiastic cheer. In unison, they thanked their visitors and exchanged high fives on the way out.

Both groups of students left the class having learned something new.

“While just working with these little kids and doing these activities, you always learn a lot more from them. Or get more inspired by them and how they work, how their brains work,” said Hirani. “And hopefully, one day, maybe one will become an architect. Maybe we changed one life.”

Photography by Bryce Womeldurf.