CARBONDALE — An award-winning Southern Illinois University Carbondale summer camp program just wrapped up its 30th year.
The SIU Summer Architecture camps introduce children and teens to the world of architectural design and help their development of three-dimensional spatial skills.
Jon Davey, professor of architecture at SIUC, devised the programs three decades ago to teach young people about architecture, urban design, landscape design, interior design and industrial design.
“I was frustrated with my own education, I was frustrated with my son’s education, and I just thought, ‘I’ll just try to teach kids architecture in one week with what they learn in five years,’” Davey said.
The Kid Architecture program is a day camp that serves children in grades 4 to 6. Middle School Architecture and High School Architecture are overnight camps.
Campers learn about why buildings stand up, why they look the way they do, how they’re designed, and how and why people define space.
“We cast concrete, we draw, we visit historic sites, we go to St. Louis to visit Bellefontaine Cemetery and St. Louis Basilica, they do presentations, watercolors, model building — just everything we do in a typical architecture curriculum, I try to give a little taste of that in one week,” Davey said.
Davey designed the programs around the notion that children who are exposed to architectural design early on will develop a better capacity for formulating complex ideas about the built environment — a theory posited by architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable.
“We spend a tremendous amount of money on literacy, but the literacy deals with math, English and writing, but it doesn’t deal at all with the visual environment that we have. So most of the time, people look at things and they don’t even know what they’re looking at, or the background behind it,” Davey said.
Over the past 30 years, Davey has continually created new activities and projects along the way, and he’s watched the program evolve.
“I’ve had people who have gone through the program and sent their kids to the program,” Davey said.