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New Frank Lloyd Wright lesson plans to bring architecture into the classroom

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Using Wright’s life and work to connect science and creativity in the classroom

Students taking a summer class at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona, last summer.
All images courtesy the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Iconic American architect Frank Lloyd Wright has inspired generations to design and create. A new initiative under development by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation seeks to use Wright’s life and work as a teaching tool to help schoolchildren connect art, architecture, and creativity in the classroom.

”Using his legacy to inspire kids in an important role for a cultural foundation,” says Stuart Graff, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation president and CEO. “Science and math aren’t going to be boring to these kids. A few of them will go on to be architects, engineers, designers and scientists.”

”Using his legacy to inspire kids in an important role for a cultural foundation.”

The Foundation has previously developed educational programs, according to Graff, and has run a series of camps and student programs for decades at Taliesin West and Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. This new initiative aims to update those efforts and provide lesson plans for grades K-12 that are ready-made for today’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) initiatives. Currently under development, these lessons will roll out in 25 classrooms this fall as part of a pilot program with the Paradise Valley Unified School District in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona, near Taliesin West.

Graff says the program is meant to drive curiosity and help students see math and science as part of the beauty of the natural world. Lessons will explore spatial and engineering relationship, examine organic design and structures like cantilevers, and zero-in on organic architecture. Lessons will be tailored to different grade levels and goals. Elementary students may sketch and draw trees and natural patterns, while high schoolers would delve into the physics and math of how those trees support weight.

“Teachers today have so many demands on their time,” he says. “This is a way of both supplementing what teachers are already doing, and bringing creativity into the classroom.”

One of the prototype lessons plans being developed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

The organization plans to offer the core lessons for free, and charge a small fee for additional materials and video. Ideally, and underwriter can be found to cover those costs. Eventually, the goal is to take these lessons to school districts near 74 different Frank Lloyd Wright sites across the country and partner with local educators to create lessons that tie into local schools standards.

Graff himself remembers the inspiration power of Wright’s work, crediting a visit to the Rookery Building in Chicago as an 8-year-old as a big childhood inspiration.

“Kids are curious and want to understand the world around them,” he says. “That’s how Wright got the start, exploring nature on the farm where he grew up. That curiosity drove all the investigations that produced the architecture we see and admire. We want to tap into the curiosity that kids have and give them an understanding of the world around them.”

Drawing by Julia, age 9.