Boys and Girls Club campers build a city

By Melanie Ruberti

July 27, 2014

LaGrange has some new city planners already building the town of the future.

While it might only be a few blocks wide, built out of cardboard and construction paper, and confined to a classroom at the Boys and Girls Club, but it has everything a potential home or business owner might want when scouting a new location. Like an airport, farmland, - and a beach.

“We have an industrial area, and a residential area by a lake. The homes are more expensive there. We have a bridge inspired by Horace King and an airport. We have a cemetery as a way to honor the dead, and we have a church,” explained 12 year old Ayquavious Tucker, a camper at the Boys and Girls Club. “We also have a lot of trees, farmland, two different museums, and we made our own ocean.”

While the city doesn’t yet have a name, it is the creation of around 30 campers at the West Georgia Boys and Girls Club of LaGrange. What started as a pilot program to teach the kids more about architecture and city planning, the idea took off once the kids started planning, designing, creating, and building their “ideal” city a few weeks ago.

“They researched and designed blue prints,” explained Cameron Moore with the Boys and Girls Club. “They used the school, picked a room, measured it to scale and drew it from an aerial view. They thought about furniture and how it would fit in the room. They drew people to scale. They spent a lot of time thinking outside the box.”

The kids also got a lot of help by first chatting with folks like Skip Smith, president of the local architectural firm the Smith Design Group, LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton, Paige Estes, President of the LaGrange - Troup County Chamber of Commerce, and many others. The program was sponsored by Batson - Cook Construction, who also provided the funding. The Boys and Girls Club also worked in conjunction with the LaGrange Art Museum.

“The project was open ended,” explained Sally Keith, the education director with the LaGrange Art Museum. “They had to come up with solutions on their own. The children did their own research - we didn’t help them. They made mistakes, but kept trying to make it work. The project had a life of it’s own.”

One of the pitfalls came when the campers tried to build the bridge in the middle of town. No matter how they constructed it, the structure wouldn’t stand up. So using a computer in the room to research, and new knowledge of roman architecture, the students learned how to build a cardboard bridge that fit the scale and was aesthetically pleasing to the city around it.

Along with learning, the students also became problem solvers and risk takers. But more importantly, said Keith, they used their imagination.

“To allow children creative play is hugely important,” she said. “Children today are so scheduled, they don’t have time to use their imagination in play….this gave them the opportunity to do that.”

In fact, everything in the “city” is handmade, from the airport hanger made out of construction paper, to the tractor trailer made from Styrofoam, to the people made from the wire ties around a loaf of bread. The campers even built a water tower.

“They wanted to bring things from home,” said Keith. “But I said ‘Why? We can make it.’ It evolved….the kids just took off with it.”

And the kids still aren’t done. They’re constructing gravestones for the cemetery, figuring out a parking problem near one of the churches, and giving their city a “hometown” feel.

“We’re still naming our buildings,” said Tucker. ” We put houses on the beach because of the excellent view… they’re more expensive. But were also going to have public housing and a recreation center. ” I’d like to put more schools, a funeral home, cattle on the farm, and some crops. Plus build more efficient roadways.”

A project that may one day help these kids design a new place to call home.