What is Institute for Shaping the Built Environment (ISBE)?

Institute for Shaping the Built Environment (ISBE) is an interactive, standards-based middle school grade specific curriculum which introduces students to the built environment as they construct “green” schools, or new baseball fields or parks and community centers.  Math, Science, technology, engineering and communications are heavily embedded in the interactive, project-based program.  The experience culminates in a design-build competition showcased at NICE’s annual iBuild Showcase.  Both ISBE and iBuild Showcase are sponsored by NICE.

Instructor manuals and student materials are available on-line for registered participants. There are separate programs for 6th, 7th and 8th grade classes.

The 6th grade program:  Upon learning about sustainability and how to build “green”, students will take one aspect of their school and improve the wise use of natural resources, from energy to material choices.  They will investigate the size, shape, and building materials of their school, do electricity audits, rate their school’s “greenness,” and then recommend, plan and build a “green” entertainment patio, landscape plan, rain garden addition, or rooftop garden. Their new improvement will be built in an 11”x17” box top from recycled materials with a maximum $5 budget.

The 7th grade program: Upon researching the feasibility of three new “kidspaces,” such as a ballpark, skating rink, skateboard park, soccer field, basketball or tennis court, students will choose one to design and build. They will learn to conduct a survey and analyze information, evaluate alternative locations, how to use scale, estimate land usage, understand charts, and figure space.  Their new kidspace will be built in an 11”x17” box top from recycled materials with a maximum $5 budget.

The 8th grade program: Upon learning about team roles and responsibilities, students set up the criteria for a park, determine potential locations using Google Earth, evaluate issues of safety, go through zoning and city code offices by writing persuasively, designing and budgeting their park and community center.  They create blueprints, do a feasibility study, present their design and then construct their model community center in an 11”x17” box top from recycled materials with a maximum $5 budget.

The ISBE Middle School program was created to teach construction education in the main-stream 6th, 7th and 8th grade classroom.  ISBE provides carefully developed lesson plans “mapped back” to the State standards. 

Functioning in teams in their mainstream classroom, with teachers using carefully developed lesson plans, students are applying:

  • Math to determine the amount of soil excavated, to determine advantage of wind verses nuclear power, prepare construction budgets, estimate material requirements, and develop project schedules.
  • Science to learn about soil conditions, batch concrete, and properties of steel and alloys.
  • Communication Arts to discover the vital safety skills, child labor history, writing contracts and awarding the project bids based on quality, safety, and time.
  • Career Pathways. Most importantly they are researching and learning about high tech career pathways in engineering, architecture, contracting, and the skilled trades.

The curriculum also teaches life skills necessary to succeed on the job such as:

  • Problem-solving: able to frame problems as puzzles and then able to apply understanding and learning to these novel situations.
  • Innovation: power to pursue independent and original investigation.
  • Invention: recognize the needs of the world and creatively design and implement solutions.
  • Self-reliance: able to set own agendas, develop and gain self-confidence and work within time specified time frames.
  • Logical thinking: able to make the kinds of connections to affect an understanding of natural phenomena.
  • Technologically literacy: understand the nature of the technology, master the skills needed and apply it appropriately.

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