Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Building UP

One spring day my mom decided to take down the ceiling to floor
red velvet living room curtains and replace them with something less
Victorian looking. I realized that the desire of my heart was to turn
them into a tent. I spoke up before she could come up with an
alternate use. Back then we wouldn't have thrown them away. The
venture was harder than I had anticipated. The snags made the end
product all the more satisfying.
This lovely memory came to mind when I had the great good
fortune to read Christy Hale's dreaming UP: a celebration of
building. It's a breath-taking picture book built around the premise,
"If they can dream it, they can build it." (Madhu Thangavelu). It is
truly empowering and inspiring. You can tell it will be just from
looking at the cover. A wide eyed child, surrounded by photographs of
state of the art structures, oh so carefully places the top block on a
The book mostly consists of two page spreads. On the left pages
you see kids doing what they do for fun: making mud pies and sand
castles, sharing a book in a pillow fort, creating an igloo. (I was
thrilled when I pointed out to my fellow library volunteer, Laura,
that there were boys snd girls and delighted when she showed me that
kids of several races were included.) On each left page there is a
structure and a poem that takes the shape of that structure. On the
right page the structure is mirrored in a real life building. The
last four pages give information about the buildings and how childhood
experiences of the architects helped lead to their creation.
A girl makes mud pies and lets them bake in the sun. On the
next page there is a picture of New Gourna Village, made of earth, in
India. Inspired by his mother's stories of rural self-sufficiency,
Hassan Fathy grew up to teach people how to construct with local
materials. He had a heart for the poor. "The human spirit is our
most precious resource."
Children build with tubes and cardboard. On the opposite page
Chinese children study in a temporary school actually made of recycled
paper tubes and plywood after an earthquake. Shigeru Ban's interest
in design was inspired by his fashion designer mother's international
travels. "Anything can be building structure materials."
This book would be great for primary school libraries to build
children's interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math).
On a personal note, I obviously didn't grow up to be an architect. I
am working toward something more abstract but no less real: a school
system that nurtures the minds, bodies, and psyches of children. I
agree with Fathy in the preciousness of human souls. It grieves me
that so many are crushed by standardized tests and teaching to them.
This feels like an overwhelming test at times. I have to keep
reminding myself that if we can dream it we can build it.
A great big shout out goes out to the folks of Maine School
Superintendents Association who put on Navigating The Budget Process
last Friday. I learned so much and made new friends. The food was
fabulous. I got to hang out with my BFF Christine. Who could ask for
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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