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Building A Foundation Of Learning

 By Ara | Jan 2006

(ARA) - Any parent with school-age children knows that school budgets have been strained to their limits in recent years. State and federal government pledges of “no new taxes” also mean no new funding for schools. Extra-curricular activities such as band and drama are usually the first casualties, but basic academic programs can be affected, too. Some schools, in an effort to raise money, resort to “solutions” like installing vending machines selling soda pop, or bringing fast food franchises into the school cafeteria.

Coming up with exciting lesson plans that include hands-on learning elements can be a challenge for teachers under these circumstances. Two programs that have won thumbs up reviews from both teachers and students are Build Up! and On Site!. These two programs help teach math, science, technology and language arts to fifth through ninth grade students, using a fun curriculum based on the buildings around them.

"In teams, the kids in my class built bridges and skyscrapers,” said Dan Jordan, a fifth-grade teacher at Barton Intermediate School in Queensbury, N.Y. “They thoroughly enjoyed this weeklong project. Some of the teams had structures that held over 100 pounds! As an educator, and former businessman, I appreciate whenever companies or groups get involved with helping to educate our children.”

Build Up! is geared to fifth grade students, and takes them on a journey of discovery inside the structures that make up their world. In addition to using math skills, students also stretch their imaginations and use their science knowledge as they look ahead and discuss futuristic building challenges, such as mile-high buildings, extra-long bridges and energy efficient buildings.

“The Build Up! curriculum was very well received by the students and the activities were highly motivational. It gave them an excellent understanding of the skills required by those in the construction industry, as well as the career opportunities that are available,” said Sara Miller, a fifth-grade teacher (ret.) from Washington, D.C., who piloted the program during the 1997 to 98 school year.

The On Site! program is tailored to middle/junior high school students (grades 6 through 9). This multi-media program travels through time and brings students from the early construction in ancient Rome to construction today, where environmental, economic and social impacts are considered as new projects are undertaken.

One of the most popular aspects of On Site! is “The Most Astounding Structures” video. Developed in conjunction with the History Channel, the video provides a 30-minute overview of the most extreme structures on earth -- the tallest, strangest, largest.

All of the lessons in Build Up! and On Site! are linked to National Standards for social studies, science, math and language arts. Build Up! debuted in January 1999 and has been refined and improved using teacher feedback. This feedback was also used in creating On Site! To date, the two programs have reached over 1 million students.

“The construction industry is an honorable profession,” says Dennis Day, executive director of public affairs for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), a Washington, D.C.-based trade group for the construction industry. “It is still one of a few industries where you can climb the ladder of success as high as you want. By creating our Build Up! and On Site! curriculum, AGC brings the merits of the profession to students, teachers, and parents allowing them learn how construction contributes to our quality of life.”

Build Up! and On Site! are available free to teachers and schools courtesy of AGC. The “tool kits” for each program are turnkey supplementary education programs that include a teaching guide with lesson plans, student activity books, audio visual components, and consumable materials for hands-on projects such as wooden dowels, washers, Popsicle sticks, rubber bands, floatable concrete mix, etc., which are used in conjunction with the student activities.

AGC members and chapters sponsor kits at a cost of $199 each; after a teacher requests a kit, AGC works to find someone in their area who will sponsor their materials. AGC members are also available as speakers to provide real-world connections to the academic material, sharing their knowledge and experience with students.

For more information on Build Up! and On Site!, visit

Courtesy of ARA Content

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