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Pertinent to the educational growth of children is the stimulation that they receive from their environment. When a child is deprived of valuable sensory experiences it can negatively influence their growth. Many factors may cause this lack in development. It is suggested that children who are deficient in understanding spatial relationships also have learning difficulties in other school subjects.1 In the modern urban environment many creative activities are neglected. In the classroom, activities that increase perceptual awareness need to be provided. Most theories of perception generally agree that, the young child perceives simple wholes initially, and as the child develops he/she perceives the details within the whole. The child can be taught through training in observation and doing to increase his/her perceptual discrimination. This process is also influenced by the child’s cultural environment, which is the total of economic conditions, child rearing practices, social interaction, religious beliefs and peer influence which affects each child differently.
This unit is being organized to be presented to sixth through eighth graders with generally limited visual literacy. My sixth graders are scheduled for art one forty-five minute period per week. This demands that the Architecture activity be compressed and simplified. Seventh and eighth graders meet four forty-five minute periods per week for one marking period of ten weeks. For seventh and eighth graders this unit will be utilized three to four weeks dependent upon the ability grouping of the students.
The entrance of a house holds an important meaning since it is the boundary that separates our private life from our public life in the community. The front or facade of the house can be compared to the front of our bodies standing symmetrically facing the world. Windows can permit a view in, out or shut out the community. The backs of homes, not always symmetrical, exhibit the private life of people. Boundaries are usually defined in backyards in order to discourage interference from the outside. The interior of the house complements the exterior with a vertical directionality moving up and down by means of stairways. Stairs leading up may direct us to rooms that provide us with privacy or separateness, while concealed stairs leading down to the basement may exemplify the idea of a cave. Rooms within a house can either be those that are utilized for group activities or those that provide individuals with seclusion.3
In order to further develop the incorporation of awareness of body image in architectural design, research done in the area of proxemics can be helpful. Proxemics studies the cultural influences of how we experience space. As people throughout the world have developed their cultures uniquely and distinctly from one another problems can and do arise when cultural groups attempt to communicate with one another. For the purposes of this paper human space perception is emphasized, while it needs to be remembered that we interact with all of our perceptual systems. Research shows that people oriental themselves in space according to the culture that they were reared in. Each of us sense other people as close or distant. Four distance zones affect how we react: intimate distance, personal distance, social distance and public distance. These distance zones greatly affect how people use their senses to distinguish between the relationships of others, their feelings and what activity they are involved in. What may be considered intimate in one culture might be public or personal in another culture. Without going into detail describing the distance zones, the awareness of these territorial spaces is particularly valuable when designing urban environments. Crowding human beings into vertical buildings without considering the negative effects of crowding upon the human needs within different relationships is harmful. The result becomes evident when we observe the stress found in many urban dwellers. Contemporary Americans have need for urban environments that provide a variety of spatial experiences.4
Between the ages of 4 through 7 the tactile experiences with an object can be translated visually. This happens when the child attempts to draw from tactile perceptions. The child’s drawing will reflect his/her ability to explore objects and recognize shapes from tactile experience. Initially rounded shapes are drawn followed by those shapes drawn with straight lines. One must be aware that this process develops quite slowly in the child. In addition children can match shapes more easily than they can draw them.6
By the ages of 8 and 9 the child becomes aware of the body’s orientation to the horizontal and vertical coordinates of space. Objects such as buildings and trees can be perceived as upright forms as well as our bodies, due to the pull of gravity. Our ears contain the mechanisms that indicate when our head is not parallel to gravitational pull. It appears that the more active motor experience the child has the greater awareness he/she has of the horizontal and vertical condition of the environment. Active participation in such activities as walking, bicycling and other sports can develop this skill when contrasted with passive movement such as bus riding. The child is moving through a world that contains objects scaled generally for adults. This observation suggests that playgrounds need to be designed with the child’s sense of scale; a scale that provides spatial learning activities between the levels of toy playing and the larger adult scaled environment.7
As the child of 8 to 9 is becoming more aware of depth and distance in space, he/she is also developing perceptions of body image, as attitudes towards their bodies and the bodies of other people. Research in the area of how children perceive the size of their bodies appears to show that children will overestimate or underestimate the size of their bodies in relation to what is culturally desirable. Many variables influence how the child perceives his/her body: sex differences, personality types, and emotional feelings of self-importance, success and power. Generally, the child, as well as the adult, functions within three dimensional boundaries that surround our bodies. For the child these boundaries are not fixed since their growth processes are not complete.8
Children develop their awareness of distance and depth very slowly. Judgment of distance becomes clearer as the child has more experience with actually traversing the distance themselves. The child will gradually perceive the changes in; the appearances or objects as they move towards them or away from them. Older children through maturation, experience and training can usually perceive that objects gradually recede into the distance. The focusing of both eyes in what is known as binocular vision is necessary for accuracy in depth perception. Changes in the size of objects will cause them to appear smaller as they recede into the background. The texture of the surfaces of objects becomes more dense the further they are away from the viewer. As the older child becomes less self-centered and more aware of other viewpoints, what is known as linear perspective (parallel lines converging to a vanishing point at the horizon) can be understood. The horizon is relative to one’s point of view and the surrounding environment (urban, flat rural land, ocean, hills, mountains, etc.). Generally we look up towards objects that are distant, and down at near objects. Movement and the speed at which an object moves conveys depth. Objects which are closer appear to move more and faster than similar objects at greater distances. Shadows created as a result of a light source contribute to the impression of an object being in three dimensional space.9
In any discussion of developmental growth in children it must be remembered that there are a multitude of variables affecting the learning process. The perception of spatial relationships is a complex learning process that does not complete itself in childhood; nor can it be isolated from other learning processes. It is discussed here for the purpose of guiding one in planning art activities that can improve the child’s awareness of space. This awareness of space is connected directly to our thoughts, feelings and imagination as we experience buildings in our environment.
The Fair Haven community lies in the eastern area of New Haven bounded by the Mill River on the West and the Quinnipiac River on the East. Fair Haven was first settled around 1640. With the construction of the Dragon Bridge in 1793 over the Quinnipiac River and the Barneaville Bridge in 1819 across the Mill River, Fair Haven became more accessible. Early Fair Haven was inhabited by people involved in the oyster business. Oystering became a major industry by the middle of the nineteenth century. Many immigrants began to inhabit Fair Haven during this time as well as necessitating the building of many homes. Growth continued until the early twentieth century. During recent years redevelopment and renovation have rescued some of the homes built during the nineteenth century. The Historic Commission is involved in creating an historic district along the Quinnipiac River.l0
As a supplementary activity children can cut and glue large front views of their homes using black on white. Folding to cut symmetrical forms found in homes can be instructional in terms of cutting openings for doors and windows.
The elevation drawing of the object is the horizontal view of one side or face of the object. It includes the exterior details of the one side of the object. Using a model car as an example, an elevation view can be one side of the car that includes the outer body of the car showing doors, windows, fenders, tires, etc.
The section drawing of the object is the horizontal view of one side or face of the object after that side or face has been visually removed. It is a view of the interior space. Some objects can have the side opened. A piece of fruit or a candy bar can be cut open. The body of a model might be able to be removed showing the interior details.
The plan drawing of the object is the sectional view that looks down inside the object. It is an interior view of the object after the top has been removed. Using the example of a car model the plan view would be the interior forms and spaces seen when the roof of the car is removed.
The three views of a simple object are intended not only to be descriptive, but to increase the student’s awareness of spatial elements.
There are four characteristics that can be presented in art activities to demonstrate distance in three dimensional space.
____I. The Horizon: Near is Down. Far is Up.
____II. Overlapping Forms
____III. Diminishing Size
____IV. Density of Texture
I. The Horizon: Near is Down. Far is Up.
Draw a horizontal line freely or with the aid of a ruler across a piece of drawing paper. This line represents the natural horizon. The area above the horizon becomes sky while the area below the horizon becomes land or water. The area below the horizon can be divided into three levels of distance: front, middle and back. Select three simple objects or shapes. Cut one front object from black paper which will be glued in the space near the bottom of the paper. Cut one middle object from grey paper. Magazines can be used for their wide variety of grey values. Glue the middle object or shape in the space between the bottom and the horizon line. Finally cut a shape in a lighter grey for the back object and glue it near or on the horizon line. At this point discuss adding other front, middle or back shapes that may be drawn or cut from black and varied grey papers. The goal is to suggest three levels of distance in space. Near objects are down near the bottom of the paper. As objects move farther back in space they are placed higher up on the paper. The use of black and grey values can assist in strengthening the appearance of distance.
II. Overlapping Forms
Draw a horizon line across a piece of drawing paper. The area above the horizon line represents sky while the area below the line represents land or water. Have the students cut at least five shapes using black and grey papers. Arrange the five shapes so that they overlap one another. All of the shapes must overlap. Discuss how shapes appear to be in front, middle and back relative to their arrangement and the horizon line.
III. Diminishing Size
As objects are perceived in three dimensional space they visually appear to become smaller and shorter in relation to the observer as they recede to the horizon. For the purposes of this problem no attempt is made at formal skills in perspective drawing unless the visual maturity of the students demonstrates a readiness for instruction.
Have students draw a horizon line across their drawing paper. Using cut paper in black and values of grey have students cut a series of eight to ten objects that gradually reduce in size from large to small, tall to short. Some examples that commonly express themselves well in reduced size are: simple forms of people or animals, buildings, trees, flowers, insects, cars, airplanes, birds, etc. Shapes can have details added with drawing or cut paper. Have students arrange their series of shapes from large to small. The largest can be considered the closest to the observer and the smallest the farthest away, near or on the horizon line. Have students complete their composition by adding details to the ground or water below the horizon and the sky above the horizon.
IV. Density of Texture
The density of texture as part of an object’s surface is another characteristic of perceiving three dimensional space. Students can have practice in creating surface textures through drawings and rubbings. Small pieces of drawing paper can be used to make rubbings of surface textures in the classroom and/or from collections of objects. Students can also be given practice in drawing texture: vertical and horizontal lines of varying thickness and spacing, crosshatching, scribbling and dot drawing. After the student has acquired an assortment of textured papers he/she can cut and arrange the textured shapes on paper. This activity can make use of the horizon line as well as overlapping forms and diminishing sizes. The goal is to increase the student’s awareness of three dimensional space as it is represented on a flat (paper) two dimensional surface.
In conclusion the above activities and preceding objectives can be considered valuable learning experiences for young people. As adults of the future today’s students will probably have decisions to make in regard to their living and working environments. Spatial learning for young people can contribute positively.
Bloomer, Kent C. and Charles W. Moore. Body, Memory, and Architecture. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1977. Architecture is presented as a whole person experience.
|Brown, Elizabeth Mills. New Haven: A Guide to Architecture and Urban Design. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1976. This book describes the architecture of New Haven in||words and pictures.|
Downs, Roger M. and David Stea, Eds. Image and Environment: Cognitive Mapping and Spatial Behavior. Chicago: Aldine Pub. Co., 1973. Studies in spatial perception of the child.
Fisher, Seymour. Body Experience in Fantasy and Behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1970. Research in body image concepts in children.
Fisher, Seymour and Sidney E. Cleveland. Body Image and Personality. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1968. Psychological studies in how different personalities view their body and bodies of others.
Fuller, R. Buckminster. Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1969. The architect of Buckminster Fuller’s theories of specialization and power positions.
Hall, Edward T. The Hidden Dimension. Garden City, NY.: Doubleday & Co., 1959. A study of proxemics.
Inside New Haven’s Neighborhoods. Edited by Carey Goldberg and Holly Lyman, (New Haven: New Haven Colony Historical Society, 1982). Oral histories of New Haven’s neighborhoods—a tour guide.
Linderman, Earl W. and Donald W. Herbenholz. Developing Artistic and Perceptual Awareness. New York: Wm. C. Brown Co., 1974. Art education as perceptual learning.
Lindsay, Zaidee. Art and the Handicapped Child. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1972. Directed to handicapped children, but includes a perceptual learning approach.
Piaget, Jean and Barbel Inhelder. The Child’s Conception of Space. Translated by F. J. Langdon and J. L. Lunzer, New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1967. Piaget’s in depth research in spatial perception.
Rapoport, Amos. House Form and Gulture. Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Prentice-Hall, 1969. The house as it is culturally defined.
Rasmussen, Steen Eiler. Experiencing Architecture. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1959. Studying architecture throughout history in formal elements.
Redstone, Louis G. with Ruth R. Redstone. Public Art: New Directions. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1981. Full of pictures of ‘public art’ in community buildings/ environments. Car Graveyard in Hamden Plaza is pictured.
Rottger, Ernst, Dieter Klante and Friedrich Salzmann. Surfaces in Creative Drawing. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1970. Many visual drawing experiences in pictures.
Vernon, M. D. Perception Through Experience. London: Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1970. Studies in perception.
Vernon, M. D. The Psychology of Perception. Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin Books, 1971. Studies in perception.
Wright, Frank Lloyd. The Living City. New York: Horizon Press, 1958. The architect, Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural theories of urban design.
Adkins, Jan. Inside—Seeing Beneath the Surface. New York: Walker and Company, 1975. Visual descriptions of sections of objects for children.
Burns, Marilyn. The Book of Think. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1976. Problem solving activities for children.
Conaway, Judith. City Crafts from Secret Cities. Chicago: Follett Publishing Co., 1978. Art activities for children as archeology.
Hiller, Carl E. From Tepees to Towers. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1967. Pictures of American architecture, especially homes for children.
Hogrogian, Honny. Handmade Secret Hiding Places. Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press, 1975. Creative shelters for children’s play made with simple available materials.
Macauley, David. Unbuilding. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1980. Imaginative fantasy of taking down the Empire State Building.
MacGregor, Anne and Scott. Skyscrapers: A Project Book. New York: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books, 1980. A book for children that describes the building of a skyscraper that includes a model to be constructed.
Madian, Jon. Beautiful Junk: A Story of the Watts Tower. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1968. An easily read book for children that describes the Watts Tower in Los Angeles.
Quinnipiac River Historic District Extension: Fair Haven-New Haven, CT. Historic District Commission: June, 1982. A photo guide to the homes along the Quinnipiac River area of Fair Haven.
Temko, Florence. Paper Folded, Cut, Sculpted. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1974. Well illustrated examples of construction in paper.
Van Voorst, Dick. Corrugated Carton Crafting. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 1970. Construction with corrugated cardboard with emphasis upon the cut strip.
Contents of 1983 Volume I | Directory of Volumes | Index | Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute