Middle School Students Sketch Their Way Up to Becoming Pros


A student in the CFAF after-school Digital Design Studio works on his 3-D personal shelter using Google SketchUp.

Maggie Yolen

Three-dimensional modeling computer programs are no longer for those with degrees in architecture and engineering. In fact, you don’t even need a high school degree. Thanks to Google SketchUp, middle school students at the Center for Architecture Foundation (CFAF) are designing 3-D models from the ground up.

11.17.10 marked the close of CFAF’s after-school fall Digital Design Studio. The studio, which met every Wednesday for seven weeks, offered students in grades six through eight the opportunity to learn the particulars of the computer program. Architect and CFAF Design Educator Carol Gretter taught the studio in the Center for Architecture’s Ibex Computer Lab giving the students a seemingly simple assignment: design a personal shelter.

On the first day of class, Gretter asked students to draw a picture of three things that they love most. Then, she encouraged students to incorporate these passions into their 3-D designs. One seventh grader — a self-proclaimed car fanatic — designed garages for the rare cars he hopes to one day own. Other students integrated their interests in skateboarding, cooking, and gymnastics into their structures. By the last class, students were navigating through the program with ease and even discussed upgrading to Google SketchUp Pro. When asked if he would continue using SketchUp, one student replied, “Yes, a lot. I might even teach my friends how to use it.”

The after-school program attracted students from the West Village to Westchester, and will be offered again as part of CFAF’s spring break program. Architecture Inside-Out, a class for third- through fifth-graders, also will be offered this fall as an after-school studio. Visit http://www.cfafoundation.org for more details.