Architecture for Young Children

Invite a member of PHLF’s education department to your school or day-care center to present one of the following programs, or call 412-471-5808, ext 537, ┬áto borrow the materials and present the program yourself.

Learning How to Look

Encourage your students to look, to notice, and to be perceptive. Play a perception game each day in school. For example:

  • Change something in your classroom (for example, hang a poster upside down) and ask your students if they notice anything different.
  • Ask them to name all the blue objects in the classroom, or all the circular objects, etc.
  • Pair your students up and ask them to look at their partner for 30 seconds. Then, ask one person (the guesser) to cover his/her eyes while the other person changes something about his/her appearance. Ask the guesser to uncover his/her eyes and guess what is different about his/her partner’s appearance. Switch roles.

Create an Alphabet Book

Borrow Alphabet City, by Stephen T. Johnson, from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation and show students how alphabet letters can be found in buildings. Ask your students to look for letters in their classroom, or on their way to and from school. Have each student draw or paint their own picture of a letter that they can find in a building design. Staple all the students’ artwork together and create an alphabet book.

Drawing Your House

Children are familiar with the place where they live, so it can be a good starting point for discussion and learning. Ask children questions about their house or apartment and encourage them to think, remember details, and express their thoughts through drawing.

What shape is their house? Is it attached to another house or does it stand alone? How many windows and doors does it have? Talk about the rooms, spaces, and activities that go on inside and outside. Write down the address of the house and list the names of the people who live there.

Purchase a 12-page booklet from PHLF titled Your House ($4.00, plus a 10% discount for PHLF members) that helps students focus and draw the details of their house.

Getting to Know Your School or Day Care

Tour the building where your students spend the day. Count the number of floors, windows, doors, or steps. Count the number of unusual details. Walk around the outside of the building: draw its shape, locate the parking areas, playground, etc. What words would you use to describe the building?

Measure the dimensions of the doorways, hallways, etc. and discuss if the doorways and hallways are too big, too small, or just right.

Have students draw their classroom and ask them to explain what they like and dislike about it.

Introducing Pittsburgh

Invite a member of PHLF’s education department to introduce “Pittsburgh” to your students. We’ll show some old photographs and artifacts and talk about when Pittsburgh was born and for whom it was named. We’ll compare Pittsburgh’s age to the age of your students! We’ll talk about how a city grows and ask students to draw a picture showing what our city needs as it continues to grow and change.

  • Price per session: $35 for members; $50 for non-members
  • Group size: 15 students maximum

What “Things” Can Mean

Invite a member of PHLF’s education department to talk about the importance of preserving objects, or “artifacts,” that reveal something about the way we live. We’ll show several artifacts to your students and discuss the purpose of each. We’ll ask students to point out objects in your classroom that hold memories, and we’ll wrap up the session by reading Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Patridge. Mem Fox’s story vividly describes how objects spark memories and connect one generation of people to the next.

  • Price per session: $35 for members; $50 for non-members
  • Group size: 25 students maximum

What’s the Same? What’s Different?

Talk about these concepts with students by showing them poster-size views of Pittsburgh in 1817, 1859, 1939, and 1994. What is the same in all four views? What is different? Which is the oldest view of Pittsburgh? Which looks like Pittsburgh today? What would it be like to live in Pittsburgh in 1817? In 1859? In 1994?

Shapes, Colors, and Numbers

Borrow a poster-size photographic view of Pittsburgh from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation and ask children to point out the circles, squares, rectangles, and triangles that make up the building shapes and land forms. Ask them to name the different colors, too, and count the number of buildings, rivers, bridges, and boats. Compose a riddle about Pittsburgh with these facts.


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