This post is the first in an on-going series, in which guest artist-instructors involved with our various Raising Creative Kids programs reflect upon their teaching experience.
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Last Saturday (Nov. 14th) I had the pleasure of working with the Walker to develop and teach MyNet: Google SketchUp, a course designed to introduce the amazing world of 3d computer modeling to both kids and their parents (as well as older siblings and mentors). Computer modeling and rendering has long been a staple of architectural education and practice, but the software involved was, more often than not, exorbitantly expensive and frustratingly difficult to learn. The combination of these two factors ensured that such amazing technology was only accessible to those at the advanced stages of their design education or those already working in the field.
Then came SketchUp…
With its simple interface and simple tools, SketchUp was an instant hit. It was intuitive and inexpensive, making it accessible to just about anyone. While this was certainly a great development for grad students and professionals, its greatest potential lies with the introduction of this software as an educational tool for K-12 children!
That belief was validated and solidified by our class on Saturday. Students and parents not only learned the basics of the software, but also got the opportunity to apply this new knowledge to an actual project of their own design. The focus of the class was to design an ideal “fort” or “hang-out.” Before we jumped into SketchUp, though, everyone first made physical, scale “study models.” This hands-on process, allowed everyone to first focus on the design of the project before getting caught up in the excitement of trying to learn how to use a new computer program.
By using this process, students and parents were actually following the real-life, organic process used by designers of all disciplines! Once everyone had tested out their ideas with scale models, we then moved into the digital world and covered the basics of SketchUp. Thanks to its simple, user friendly interface, most were able to pick it up right away! We then shifted focus back to the forts and hang-outs, learning how to translate from the miniature scale models everyone had made to full scale digital models in SketchUp that allowed them to “get inside” their projects.
I was absolutely amazed by everyone’s work! Not only were the original models recreated in SketchUp with remarkable accuracy, they were also edited, refined, and personalized with colors, materials, people, and even furniture. The sense of ownership, engagement, and empowerment that comes along with the ability to create something that is uniquely your own was clear for all to see. As a designer myself, seeing others become engaged by the same things that excite me was extremely rewarding!
Thanks to all who attended! And thanks to the Walker for making this event possible!
Designer and Assistant Director at DEMO, a non-profit focused on spreading the power of design to K-12 students and teachers throughout the Twin Cities.