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Are you smarter than a fifth grader?

The Rethos Education team brought building preservation, restoration, and deconstruction out of the office and into the classroom of third, fourth, and fifth graders. Rethos staff Emily Noyes and Josh Hauf participated in the SparkPath CreativeCon/Creativity Festival on January 9th and 10th, hosting a session titled “Building History.” Each 50 minute session began with a ten minute presentation on historic building preservation basics and highlighting three elements of historic architecture: gargoyles, spires, and columns.

The students were then set loose to build historic structures of their own, keeping in mind the three elements of historic architecture. They had twenty five minutes to work in small groups to create their structures using popsicle stick frames, decorative paper, bottle caps, play-doh, markers, crayons, magazine clippings, and other various arts and crafts supplies. 


Once the structures were built, the classroom voted on which building was deemed the most historic. The winner of the vote was added to the city in the front of the room and designated as historically significant under two-day classroom historic preservation laws. 

While some students were ready to demolish their popsicle stick buildings, the clean-up portion of the activity was the full unbuild of all structures not added to the historic city. The students learned about deconstruction and building material reuse as they tore paper from popsicle sticks and play-doh from sea shells. While not all of the supplies were salvageable, a majority were returned to the material table and available for the next group. This activity proved to be an incredibly fun way to present preservation and sustainability topics to young audiences.


In two days, “Building History” engaged over 120 students. Here is what they had to say:


  • I got to learn more about architecture

  • It was fun!

  • We got to build and work together

  • You get to build and after that you know next time that will work

  • I liked to build the castles

  • I really liked working with someone on building stuff from the past

  • I got to build a cool structure

  • There was a ton of very unique things and I was taught stuff

  • We got to learn about old buildings and got to build

  • It was fun and I made a mouse


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