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RFSD Update

At the same time that students at Basalt Elementary are watching walls being constructed and steel being erected for their new school, fourth-graders are engaging in hands-on learning and artistic expression through an innovative study of creative architecture.As the din of workers and heavy machinery continues outside, inside the colorful art room students are busy drawing, designing and constructing “imagination structures” with everything from wood to wire to cork. “The students have been inspired by architects who are building our school as well as other artists who have created some pretty fantastic structures,” explained BES art teacher Lois Alvarez. “The students will use anything that we can get our hands on to construct a structure that can be up to 14 inches tall.”Alvarez saw the ongoing construction at BES as a ripe learning opportunity to help connect real-world projects to the classroom and to the arts. Funding for her “Young Architects Imagine and Create” program comes through a $1,000 innovative teaching grant awarded by the Roaring Fork Public Education Foundation.The students spent January learning about architecture and practicing building smaller structures based on the work of a creative national artist.In early February, the fourth-graders gathered in the school library to hear an engaging presentation by Denver-based architect Anne Weber-Williams, lead designer for the new elementary. In between showing diagrams, models and sample building materials, Williams deftly fielded a variety of questions from students. The inquiries ranged from the fundamental such as why a new school was needed, to the practical regarding the number of new bathrooms, to the personal about where the new bus drop-off area will be.Williams explained the aspects of designing the school, such as the sloping site, the budget, the needs and activities of the people in the building, and the local surroundings. She captured the attention of the young audience as she explained that major characteristics of Basalt inspired some of the new design elements including the local rocks represented in red, beige and gray color schemes and the two rivers that will show up in blue and green wavy carpeting and in flowing elements of staircase guardrails and some corridor ceilings. The history of railroads and mining in Basalt will be shown through a lobby ceiling design that will imitate train tracks and through the detailing of the entrance tower that will emulate the cross bracing and framing of wooden mining structures.Students also saw a slide show of avant-garde buildings in shapes such as a shoe or a cow and buildings constructed of alternative materials such as bottles. When it came time to sketch their imagination structures, the students blended function with fantasy to design fantastic playhouses, elaborate castles, a swimming pool on a roof, or their own homes.Assisting in the learning project is Deb Jones, executive director of the Wyly Community Art Center in Basalt. The center collaborates with local schools and professional artists to foster the visual arts and creative expression for learners of all ages and abilities.Jones, an art teacher in the valley for 30 years, said fourth-graders are at a developmental age when they enjoy building 3-D structures and might be thinking ahead to careers that would be both useful and fuel their imaginations.A show of the students’ work will be hosted at the Wyly art center in March.Suzie Romig is the RFSD’s public information officer.


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