Posts tagged ‘architecture’

Holiday Cheer!!!

The excitement of opening gifts is most likely over, but school doesn’t start for another week.

Here is a great activity to use up left-over sweets and your kids will love it too!

Gingerbread Architecture


  • Frosting— normal icing (not “whipped”)
  • Graham crackers
  • Plastic knives
  • Paper plate, cardboard, etc. for base of house
  • Small Milk Carton or box for house foundation
  • Ruler

Suggested Sweet (or whatever you have at your house)

  • Gum drops
  • Mini candy canes
  • Mini Marshmallows
  • Peppermints
  • Powdered sugar
  • Pretzel sticks
  • Pull ‘n Peel Twizzlers
  • Red & Green M&Ms
  • Red & Green Sprinkles
  • Red hots
  • Shredded coconut


  • Discover basic understanding of what an architect does
  • Estimate perimeter using non-traditional units of measurement
  • Estimate surface area using non-traditional units of measurement (may be too advanced for younger children)
  • Make a gingerbread house!

Set up: Clean off the kitchen table or flat surface (some place that can get MESSY). Have the materials available for

Intro: Ask your child(ren) if they know what an architect does? An elementary definition, an architect is a person who designs and builds buildings, etc. One important concept of architecture is knowing how much of a certain material one would need in the construction of their structure/building. While building today’s Gingerbread house you are going to work with some familiar math concepts in architecture with unfamiliar units—candy!

Perimeter: What if you want to make a border all the way around your house. What might happen if you didn’t know how much material you needed? (run out, have too much, etc.) How could you figure out how much material you need? (Measure all four sides) This measurement is called PERIMETER. Perimeter is a big word that basically means add all four sides. Ask your child(ren) to measure all four sides of their gingerbread house and find the perimeter. (Don’t tell them what to use to measure.) Because our gingerbread houses are square, is there another way that you could have figured out the perimeter (how much material you need to go around all four sides)? (Yes, a square has four equal sides, so you could multiply one side length by four.)

Perimeter Practice: You may know that you can measure objects in centimeters or inches, but did you know that you can also measure things with M&M’s or marshmallows? Ask your child(ren) to estimate the perimeter of different objects using non-traditional tools. (ex: measure the perimeter of the plate with M&M’s or measure the perimeter of a napkin with sprinkles) Estimate means that it’s okay to say that the length of a graham cracker square is 9 M&M’s even if it’s actually 9.25 M&M’s or so.

Discussion Point: You will find there are different measurements for the same item (i.e. for the perimeter of the plate could be 30 gum drops OR 45 red hots). Can these both be right? Yes, they were measuring in different units. One person measured in red hots and another person measured in gum drops; gum drops are bigger than red hots, so it makes sense that you would need fewer gum drops to cover the same length.

Surface Area: What would you need to know about a wall to paint it? (how big it is, etc.) One way to talk about how big the wall is, is to determine its area. How can you find the (surface) area of the wall? (Area=length x height) Estimate the area (or surface area) of one graham cracker wall using M&Ms.

Ok, so what if you wanted to paint the entire outside of your house white…how would you know how much paint to buy? To figure it out, you would need to know the surface area of the house. What is surface area? (Technically, surface area is the sum of all the areas of all the shapes that cover the surface of the object.) How could we find the SA of our house? SA= area of wall 1 + area of wall 2 + area of wall 3 + area of wall 4 + area of roof. (Note: Will you use 1 or 2 graham cracker squares to build your roof?) That’s kind of a long process, do we really need to measure each wall or are there any shortcuts? Recall that the graham cracker house is a cube. Also, we’re constructing out of graham crackers, so if you used 6 graham crackers to build your house, your SA would be 6*(SA of one graham cracker).

Time to be the Architect and Construct your Gingerbread house!

Procedure: Frost the graham cracker walls to the sides of the juice carton. Place one graham cracker square on top to make the base of the roof. Next, lean two graham cracker squares against each other to make a pointy roof. Cement with lots of frosting. Then, decorate with candy to your heart’s delight!

Building and of course eating a Gingerbread house is always a kid favorite and now you can integrate simple math concepts within the creative experience.


December 28, 2009 at 9:27 am Leave a comment

Video games, girls and education

This Summer, I attended Girlstart’s ITGirl Summer Academy-a week long camp where our IT Girls examined gender equity in gaming and computer science, explored the power of new media in effecting social change, and planned and produced a virtual global awareness event in Teen Second Life.

Day 1 of the camp consisted of console gaming-the girls played a variety of video games on the XBOX 360, Playstation, and Wii and discussed female portrayal in gaming, game design and blogged about some contemporary gender and technology issues. The girls’ exposure to video games varied-some had never touched a controller, some had played only one or two types of games regularly, and very few considered themselves “gamers”.

While many girls’ opinions about gaming revolved around negative connotations of the word “Gamer”, most girls seemed to be very receptive to gaming. After a quick tutorial in Mortal Kombat, 2 of the 18 girls in the camp’s first session became almost obsessed, researching and practicing new moves and asking me questions about my experience playing competitively. As someone who loves gaming and credits it for her interest in technology in general, this almost brought tears to my eyes. Girls from the camp towards the end were considering asking their parents for tech gifts for Xmas instead of some of the things they’d thought of before. We discussed some of the stereotypes that surround gamers, why women have had so many challenges entering the field, and how things are changing.

One of the hottest topics today is surrounding the use of the Nintendo DS in the classroom. A Tokyo school recently began using the Nintendo DS in language classes (, and researchers are increasingly finding that recent advances in gaming technology are highly relevant to science programs ( Girlstart’s collaboration with the Educator’s Coop has introduced us to the fantastic capabilities of Second Life and we are in awe of its massive potential as a tool for education in math, science, engineering, architecture, design and tech fields.

Austin’s very own South by Southwest interactive conference (SXSW) considers gaming and gender issues and gaming in education two of the hottest topics for 2008/2009.

What do we do with all this information? Well here at Girlstart we decided to continue this conversation and submitted a panel idea to the SXSW interactive conference for 2009. The working title for the panel is “Gaming as a gateway drug: using video games to get girls into technology.” The presentation will consist of educators, industry professionals and community members and will explore how gaming can be effectively used to lure girls into building and pursuing their technology interests.

The decision will be made sometime towards the end of October/beginning of November, so I’ll be sure to keep you posted with updates on the panel as well as any developing news pieces on the use of gaming in the classroom.


October 15, 2008 at 7:41 pm Leave a comment

Twitter Updates