|G1. Built Environment Unit Overview
Built environment education pertains to a great variety
of places, objects, and processes. Critical thinking, responsible
citizenship, cultural literacy, social relevancy; these concerns of
educators can be addressed through teaching and learning about the
built environment. Objects in the built environment can be used to
enhance teaching and learning in core subjects of social studies,
language arts, sciences, art, etc.
The five main themes of geography education can easily be connected to
objects in the built environment. These five themes are (1) location,
(2) place, (3) human-environment interactions, (4) movement of people,
ideas, goods, and (5) formation and change of regions.
The tangible structures that humans have created (e.g.,
bridges, houses, factories, farms, monuments) including archaeological
sites,historic landscapes, historic buildings and features of
historical or architectural interest, designed parks, gardens and
demesnes, industrial remains, shipwrecks and features of the shores and
sea-bed all constitute the built environment. Together they form
a precious resource for understanding and enjoying the past.
Built heritage education occurs whenever we interact with the world
around us. By directly experiencing, examining, and evaluating
buildings, monuments, workplaces, landscapes, and other historic sites
and artifacts--objects in our material culture and built
environment--learners gain knowledge, intellectual skills, and
attitudes that enhance their capacities for maintenance and improvement
of our society and ways of living.
Introducing the Built Environment to Students
Surprisingly, though it affects all of us, the "built environment" is
an understudied topic in Canadian classrooms. When addressed, it is
usually presented in Art or Art History, occasionally Social Studies
and, infrequently, Math, usually in relation to geometry.
The built environment, however, shapes us now, in our daily lives, and
will certainly have a profound impact on us in the future. For example,
are the public buildings and institutions that we have created in our
city truly accessible to the disabled? For the elderly? For children?
How do we design better buildings and why have certain architectural
styles been adopted into our conventions of design? Can we have beauty
How are architectural styles translated between cultures: for example,
the arches of Islamic Africa and Spain appearing the Gothic cathedrals
of Europe? How are these similarities explained in cultures that appear
to have no ties of communication, such as the pyramid builders of Egypt
and Meso-America? And why do these forms reappear in our modern
design--consider Edmonton's City Hall.
The Heritage Community Foundation encourages projects that explore
these issues, especially in relationship to the architectural heritage
of Alberta (which certainly has impressive ancestors if we count the
Egyptian or Meso-American pyramids as an antecedent to the design). We
have funded a built environment and heritage project at Strathcona
Composite High School that documented, through photographs, the
environment at the Rossdale Power Plant, the closure of Eatons, the
demolishing of a neighbourhood grocery and the final days of some of
the grain elevators in Alberta.
Though these projects were larger in scope than most
teachers would try to integrate into their lessons, the Foundation has
developed a brief list of resources--mostly from the United States--to
introduce some of these concepts to their students. The Foundation, and
its partners, hopes to develop curriculum materials and resources to
support this endeavour, with a Canadian and Albertan outlook, and
encourages interested teachers to explore the possibility of adding the
built environment to their lessons.
Alberta Association of Architects: Career Information
Human Resources Development Canada: Job Futures 2000