While working as a teaching assistant in the architecture department at the Applied Sciences Private University, a young Jordanian realised that many students lack critical thinking and creativity skills.
This observation inspired Wala Zmeili to create ArchKids in 2017, an enrichment programme focused on architecture and design.
Zmeili was one of several entrepreneurs from around the Kingdom to meet with His Majesty King Abdullah last week. During the meeting, His Majesty reaffirmed his keenness to support young Jordanians’ innovative projects, heard from the entrepreneurs and voiced pride in their achievements.
Zmeili said that the King “showed us how much he cares about our projects”, adding that she was impressed by how attentively he listened to each entrepreneur and even wrote notes as they were speaking.
The young Jordanian started off with JD80 and created a programme that she pitched to a school. She said that after hosting the programme during a winter session, the results were “impressive”, and the principal, teachers, students and parents liked it. The success of this trial run made her want to expand.
She now has two architects who work with her on a freelance basis, and the programme now offers courses in five different schools and at several centres.
The programme has reached around 300 students so far, Zmeili said, adding that her goal is to expand it to be a part of a national art curriculum offered in all schools in Jordan and even across the region.
She noted that many government schools across the region “do not currently have structured art curriculums”, which she said are important for students in developing critical skills.
In order to develop her own teaching skills to better serve her students, Zmeili began working as an art teacher in various schools. She explained that her courses are interactive and not based solely on memorisation, helping students learn more effectively.
Architecture is a multidisciplinary field, combining subjects including math, science and history, and can help students learn multiple skills early on, she said, adding: “It’s fun, but at the same time, they’re learning a lot of things.”
The founder begins classes by engaging students in activities that encourage them to think critically; for example, a discussion on why a particular architect may have designed a specific structure a certain way or a brainstorm session on how something can be done. This way, she says, students begin to conceptualise material on their own, and also begin to understand how to create a plan.
Additionally, since the architectural and design processes in different regions around the world are influenced by and rely on the varying natural resources and materials available in those areas, learning about various structures from across the globe allows students to appreciate a myriad of cultures, she explained.
Her courses also touch on sustainable and green architecture and teaching students how to best utilise and preserve natural resources.
“They will improve their skills, and at the same time, they will become more open-minded.”
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