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Middle Ridge students travel to Atlanta for project
Ken Higa, of P+W, shows the students how he creates building models.

Thanks to a grant from the Newton Education Foundation (NEF), 56 fourth and fifth graders from Middle Ridge Elementary School (MRES) have the opportunity to work in an innovative project to build a model city. Part of the project included a trip to an architectural firm in Atlanta.

As part of Heather Hodge’s math class, students are learning how geometry is used in the real world.

Hodge was awarded the Reimagine grant from NEF. She had previously received the same grant last year and was able to purchase a 3D printer. This year she used the grant to purchase 3D pens, laptops, filament for the printer and fund the field trip to Atlanta.

The trip was part of the students’ project connecting geometry and architecture to create a model city. Hodge said last year her students were able to create catapults with the 3D printer.

“I taught fourth grade in the past and realized kids need more hands on with geometry,” Hodge said. “I tried to figure out how to relate it to the real world and the first thing I thought of was buildings.”

Hodge said she reached out to a handful of architectural agencies and Ken Higga, of Perkins + Will (P+W) Atlanta’s office on Peachtree Street, responded immediately.

“It was a lot of fun. I do a lot of volunteer work with schools and stuff,” Higga said. “I think it’s important to get kids out of the classroom. It gives them the opportunity to see that they’re not just learning book stuff.”

The field trip was scheduled for Jan. 19 and the students were able to visit the P+W office to see real-life examples of skyscrapers and learn about how geometry is used in the real world.

Higga said he was very deliberate about what he showed the students on their trip. They were shown how the company builds models, does drawings, work on computers and create renderings.

“They were kind of amazed about the scale and what we do and how we work,” he said.

Higga said growing up in Hawaii he’s always wanted to be an architect. He started building at a young age with Legos and drew a lot of inspiration after a family vacation to Boston. 

One of the vital lessons learned, Hodge said, was that the project is going to take time.

“They’re going to have to communicate and work together,” she said. “These are skills they’re going to need in the real world.

Students were granted the opportunity to take school iPads on the field trip with them to take pictures. The pictures will be part of presentations they will be able to present to other students who did not go on the field trip.

Higga applauded the students and teachers for maintaining a good behavior throughout the field trip.

“Teachers like that are the ones who are really working hard to not just be creative, but inspire curiosity,” he said.

Hodge also thanked P+W for opening its doors to the student and providing lunch, t-shirts and other goodies for the students.