Subtitle: Geometry in the Real World
Geometric figures and concepts such as lines, line segments, rays, right angles, and parallel are difficult for my fourth grade students to recall. Students have difficulty with measurement problems. They use measurement tools incorrectly and do not have a basic sense of centimeters, inches, meters, feet, yards. I wanted my students to get more experience with real measurement, and develop a sense of why it is important to measure correctly in the real world. I decided to invite my sister, Nelda Braver, who is a professional architect, to visit our class. She generously agreed to come show my students some of her work, and some of the tools she used back before computers were used to generate design drawings.
The focused interest of the students was evident immediately. They listened attentively as she described how she decided to go into the field of architecture. She had loved to do art when she was their age and on into high school. She described how our wise father recommended that she might want to take a drafting class so that she could have a paying career and still use her artistic talents. She followed his advice and submitted some of her work to a drafting contest and received an award. That was what made her decide to pursue a college degree in architecture.
The attentive excitement of my students built as Nelda showed them some of the tools she used to do her architectural drawings. She asked them what they noticed about the drafting triangle and one student recognized that it had a right angle, another noticed that it was made of line segments that intersect. Oh, this teacher’s heart swelled with pride as another noted that it did not have parallel lines.
But wait, there’s more! Next we moved to the carpet where Miss Nelda, as they decided to call her, had them circle up around a large set of drawings for a house she designed that is currently under construction. They were impressed not only by the neat lines and elements of the plan, but noted how there was even a set of plans for the landscaping that used circles to show the shrubs and trees. The conversation devolved at that point as students marveled at the house with so many bedrooms and bathrooms for one couple. One student suggested that they might get lost. Another student who is usually quite quiet said that they would “need a map.” But I digress.
The culmination of this amazing teaching hour was the set of video clips that Miss Nelda had been taking of the project, as the lot was surveyed, the foundation laid, the framing raised and the latest video; of triangle shaped trusses being hoisted up onto the roof. Students were eager to see more footage as this house was built and completed. Miss Nelda was kind enough to leave us the sets of architectural drawings she had brought.
All in all, the visit from our family architect made quite an effective lesson that helped geometry and its concepts come alive for my students. I believe it became more clear to them why precision in measurement is important.
Epilogue to this great hour of learning comes with the thank you notes my students wrote to Miss Nelda with their own floor plans for their dream houses. In fact, after making the thank you notes, several students have continued making floor plans during every opportunity for free time artistic pursuits. At one point, even recess was overtaken with a table full of young house and garden designers at work.
In essence, this lesson has gone well beyond my initial plan and has taken on a life of its own in the creative minds of my students. This was the kind of experience that feeds my teacher soul.
Next month, my sister the lawyer plans to visit!