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     Volume 4 Issue 63 | September 16, 2005 |

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Arch.Kids Take Wings

Faria Tasnin

On a sultry afternoon of September 3, which happened to be a Saturday, twenty eager children gathered on the premises of Sunbeams School on Road 27, Dhanmondi. The children, all from Classes Four and Five, were the pupils of Sunnydale and Sunbeams School. They were taking part in Arch.Kids' (Architecture for Kids) latest workshop themed "My Dream Street". The name was befitting, as both the schools happened to be located on Road 27, a street that is a perfect example of Dhanmondi's on-going commercialisation. In a later part of the event, the same road was presented to the children as a model segmented into three parts, which they were told to rearrange and make into their dream street. They had the option of making all the changes that they felt were necessary for a healthy and safe environment.

Children working on the model of Toad 27, Dhanmondi

The workshop was initiated by Lecturer Huraera Jabeen with the assistance of volunteers from the Architecture Department, BRAC University. Arch.Kids is an ongoing project of the department, which has always been strongly supported by the Vice Chancellor of the university, that aims to sensitise children about environmental issues related to an urban setting.

Like the previous workshop held in February, this programme started off with slide shows on environmental issues such as managing garbage, recycling, planting trees, pedestrian crossings and general road safety. The children enthusiastically responded to the questions asked and made interesting suggestions. One such observation was the lack of trees and zebra crossings for the pedestrians.

This was followed by a session dedicated to Model Re-arranging on "My Dream Street." Road 27 is full of schools, universities and shopping centres and there are people moving to and from one part of the street to the other. There are traffic sergeants to control traffic but they can do little when it comes to jaywalking. There are now traffic lights that read green and red but the information on following traffic rules and regulations is not taught in schools. Despite that, most of the children seemed well aware of the traffic laws, as some had traveled abroad. One slide show featured the growing congestion in Dhaka, to which one student of class five said we should de-centralise.

After the slide show and model re-arranging session, the children were bursting with ideas on how to improve Road 27, and make it their "Dream Street." They vented their ideas by writing suggestions on postcards addressed to the mayor.

As more children become members of Arch. Kids, there will be enough to organise community-based programmes, such as planting trees in certain areas or streets and their maintenance. Since the children themselves will be the ones working, eventually this will create environmental awareness among adults as well. Initiating such community programmes can go a long way to change people's attitudes and develop civic pride and the demand for a cleaner city.

Arch.Kids' next project is to work on children who falls in the lower middle class strata of our society. "Since those children are frequent user of roads, we want to concentrate on that group now," said Dr. Q M Mahtab-uz-Zaman, an Associate Professor of Architecture, BRAC University and the founder of Arch.Kids. "Actually they are the ones, who are larger in number and in the future, will contribute to our economy in many ways. Many of them will enter the political scene, so even rudimentary knowledge given to them about our environment is the beginning of an answer to a well-managed city."

Photos: Nafisur Rahman

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