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Renaissance Kids Help Curious Kids

Date: September 9, 2011
Phone: 269-932-5055

Most summer camps involve some sort of craft time, but the Renaissance Kids School of Architecture summer day camp takes creativity to a whole new level. Students in the camp can peek inside the world of an architect and practice those skills themselves by contributing to local projects. In recent years, the group of 11 to 15-year-olds have built such projects as a pergola, benches and a whisper dish. And the projects keep getting bigger.
This year, more than 110 aspiring young architects in all of the six sessions designed, built and decorated a set of brick pillars outside the Curious Kids Museum in St. Joseph, Mich. The cumulative effort of six sessions, the pillars were part of a larger project to spruce up the exterior of the museum’s original location. Mark Moreno, director of the Renaissance Kids program and a Curious Kids board member, proposed to add a brick plaza, benches and five brick pillars—architecture campers will tell you they’re called “piers”—for the older building. And who better to build a space for kids than kids themselves?
In the six one-week sessions, students painted and glazed bricks, studied effective city design and planning, and listened to local artists describe their work. Younger students in sessions 1 and 2 designed their own bricks, which were embedded in the decorative piers. Seven to twelve-year-olds maneuvered the campus in wheelchairs to experience accessible buildings. Session 6, composed of 13 to 15-year olds, was responsible for the construction of the piers and bench tops in St. Joseph.
In the July heat, the 16 Session 6 architecture campers dug holes, spread mortar and stacked bricks, with the expert help of Jim Hippler of Exquisite Homes and his employees. Architecture professors Tom Lowing and Ariel Solis also assisted, as well as professional builder Allen Carver and many other glass and ceramic artists from St. Joseph. Benton Harbor sculptor Josh Andres made an appearance in Session 6 to talk about his work and to brainstorm sculpture designs to top the piers.
Renaissance Kids' campers designed and constructed these pillars, something the kids referred to
as "piers." (Photo contributed by Mark Moreno)

Although the Curious Kids plaza is Renaissance Kids’ most visible project, it’s not their first public project. In addition to the benches outside the Architecture building, Renaissance campers built a whisper dish and arch outside the Curious Kids Discovery Zone in St. Joseph last year and created plans for future development. Their creativity was evident, in whimsical and site-appropriate designs including fishbowl fountains, bridges, walking paths and brightly colored sculptures. This year’s project showed that same creativity: the painted bricks featured suns in sunglasses, beachscapes and scenes from around St. Joseph, as well as mosaics created by the Session 5 kids and fired at Water Street Glass Works.
Renaissance Kids is entirely staffed by volunteers, including professors, students and former Renaissance campers. This year, two third-year architecture students, Jessica Perez and Emily Harlow, helped the next generation of architects design and build their first project. Moreno’s two children have helped him for four years, and Jessica Snively, a high school junior, both volunteered for the first five sessions and participated in the sixth. “I’ve been really excited to see their creativity. It’s not even something that architectural students have,” says Perez.
To Moreno, it’s the students who are an indication of the architecture camp’s success.

-Samantha Snively, student news writer, Office of Integrated Marketing & Communication

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Berrien Springs, Michigan 49104