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Proceedings of the 18th National Conference on the Beginning Design Student

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Design -- Study and teaching, Architecture -- Study and teaching, Design (Philosophy), Learning strategies


Give a baby its first experience in a grassy lawn and it will roll and frolic in the grass, reveling in its presence against its skin, in its hand. Its fingers will fondle and finesse the blades, press into the mass of roots, break and tear. Learning takes place literally at the fingertips, in the direct experience of the feel of each blade. New connections to the physicality of the world are formed and, in so doing, corresponding new representations of that world are created. Each new contact with the world becomes then an experiment, a test of these representations against each successive direct contact. Concrete experience is thus impressed upon the structure of the mind, burning in synapses and altering nervous circuitry, restructuring the network of our nervous system. Our nervous systems, as characterized by philosopher William James, are "grown to the way in which they have been exercised, just as a sheet of paper or a coat, once creased or folded, tends to fall forever afterward into the same identicai folds." Educator Robert Leamnson, following James, believes these basic structures of neural processing are formed in the primary experiences in which college students first engage, inevitably and profoundly patterning the mechanisms of learning for successive educational experiences. If Leamnson's claim has merit, what is broadly called into question is raised by the very fundamental nature of first year education itself: what should be the the foundational learning experience[s] that may form patterns most beneficial to architectural experience and studio education methodologies?


Presented at the 18th National Conference on the Beginning Design Student, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon. March 14-16, 2002.

© Portland State University, published by Portland State University, Department of Architecture

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