Essex Building Museum Fosters Construction Fun

The official open day at the new Essex building museum is happening soon. The event includes erecting a geodesic dome at an event sponsored by the National Building Museum. The Building Museum is housed in a former government building. This once accommodated the United Kingdoms Pension Bureau. This structure now hosts school children as they experience the finer points of building and construction.

Essex School Open Day

Throughout the academic year, various grades and classes from the Essex area come to the building museum for a day of learning. This was during the school summer break, when public schools were not in session. Home school students are invited to come and share in the museum’s events too. Based on grade levels, several choices are offered to local privately tutored children.

At the most recent construction open event, there were groupings for four to six years, six to nine years and over 10 years old. Our grand daughter was in the oldest group and their task was to learn about and build a fuller Geodesic dome. The instructors began by having the approximately 20 students describe the space they saw around them. From that basis, they then moved on to show how various design elements were incorporated into the building. As well as the structural necessities in the design.

Once the students understood the concept of building. But could also see the relationship of compression and tension. The instructor moved on to an overview of various building types. Each one was discussed, illustrated, and visuals were shown. The final type described was the geodesic dome. Therefore, the talk included dome concepts, usages, and present day examples.

The Geodesic Dome Construction

Once students conceived the idea of the dome and could relate to having seen it at Epcot Center, the Essex expo site and other places. They were carefully instructed in how one is put together. All the parts were previously labeled, prepared and in readiness for the students use. Once working in teams of two, the students consequently chose partners. After, they began the construction of the dome, piece by piece.

Various design elements had to be incorporated, there were many screws, washers and nuts to assemble together. Teams were combined as the structure grew. At all times the instructor kept the students engaged in the project. Instructors gave especially clear and direct instructions. So the student felt like they were working together and accomplishing a special project.

Section by section, the dome rose on the floor of the great hall. Each student involved had an important part. The end result was celebrated by the students and eagerly watching parents. The students each had many advantages with individualized instruction. But this was a unique opportunity for them to work in a group with other children of their age group.

The Building Museum 

This museum was built between 1882 and 1887 for the Pension Bureau. Renowned architect Montgomery Cunningham, incorporated novel approaches to this construction in his design. He built the museum using brick to craft a fireproof edifice. Brought in fresh air through a series of design elements and incorporated European style architecture. In early 1885, Presidential Inaugural took place in the main open space. A large seal of the President is found on the floor of the first level.

The public has access to a self guided tour booklet that explains the great hall. The upper floors and the various elements of the building are also explained here. Special exhibits fill some of the display space. For the time I was there, an exhibit on building construction at the various World’s Fairs was featured.

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