By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – For a eight week period this winter students from both Sherwood Middle School and Oak Middle School are meeting to brainstorm floor plans, site plans, building materials, scale, structure and more as members of the “League of Architects,” an after school club.
Once each week, Media Aide and Architectural Curriculum Connection teacher Darlene Noonan is eagerly greeted by the 18-plus students. Noonan holds a degree in architectural engineering and is quite passionate about her love for design and her ability to inspire the students.
One of her former students, Lauren Polito, now an eighth-grade student at Oak, loved learning about architecture while at Sherwood. She requested that an after school program be created so that others may also be as inspired as she was by the discipline.
“Lauren Polito spearheaded this entire League. She is going to be a fantastic architect!” Noonan said of Lauren, who is currently the president of the club.
“I started this club because I am extremely passionate about architecture and design. Not a lot of people really know anything about it or understand the importance of it. I think this is a very enriching experience for all of us. Most everything is built by architects, not just buildings. I study the Chinese language so someday I hope to go [to China] and actually help design something. I would love to be a part of that,” Lauren said.
The Oak Middle School students act as mentors to the younger Sherwood Middle School students in the club as the members brainstorm ideas together.
“Because the students share ownership of this collaborative project, the younger students are not afraid to ask questions. This opens doors for learning and socializing. I am also able to teach these kids about real world corporate structure. They learn people skills and an appropriate way to give an opinion. These are really life skills that will be invaluable once they get out into the job market when they are older,” said Noonan.
At the first meeting, the group decided to create a design for a Tudor Victorian castle that would be located in Ireland. They were divided into five teams, each with a different responsibility, including elevation, the site plan development, interior materials, exterior materials and the floor plan. A timeline was created to keep the students on task. In mid-March, at the conclusion of the club’s gathering, they will have built an actual castle model that will be approximately 20 inches by 20 inches by 10 inches. This structure will be constructed out of recycled materials and displayed for a period of time in both schools for all to admire.
“I am thrilled that the students get to use their creativity with this structure. They can learn a lot from previous buildings of the past and build better buildings in the future. It’s self- driven educational experiences like this that can have such a strong impact, as you don’t get them every day. By structuring the program as if the students worked in a corporate setting, they learn how to implement ideas that have been agreed upon through collaboration among the different departments in the company. All students come together to finish a project that they created based on ideas, imagination and ingenuity,” said Noonan.