Hands-on makes for good learning

Published 12:14 am Saturday, October 17, 2015

Central doors, porthole windows, gable roofs, pilaster columns, spacious porches, stucco painted in pastel colors, dormers and more were among the many things Nansemond River High School students learned about recently.

In the Project Lead the Way program, students learning about engineering design, architecture and similar fields do hands-on projects as part and parcel of their work. Learning while doing is encouraged in many other fields but virtually a requirement of these classes.

So recently, architecture students chose various architectural styles and did a project on their style. The project included 3-D examples they built emphasizing the hallmarks of each style, which included cubic, split-level, Italianate, Southern Colonial and Art Deco.

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Teacher Dawn Rountree has been assigning the project for about four years, and excitement grows each year as students get to see the models displayed in the hallway. They start developing likes and dislikes of each type, Rountree said, which she feels prepares them for becoming a future consumer of architecture as a homeowner, if not a career in architecture.

Even non-engineering students get to come and look at the models, which may spark an interest for a student who has not yet thought of engineering or architecture as a career.

In an educational environment where educators are constantly under pressure to make sure students pass statewide standardized tests, programs like Project Lead the Way are reminding teachers and students alike that real learning doesn’t disappear after it has been regurgitated on a test paper. It sticks around for the long haul, informing career, consumer and family decisions long into the future.

So it is with this project. The students who constructed these house models, and even the ones who only saw them passing in the hallway, will remember the features of various architectural styles far better than if they had simply memorized a list.

That’s good teaching, Ms. Rountree and the Project Lead the Way program. Keep at it.