Melody Harclerode, left, and Phillip Alexander-Cox.
Melody Harclerode, left, and Phillip Alexander-Cox.

Discover ARCHITECTURE,” an elementary school textbook created to foster a love and understand of building design, is a “love letter to Atlanta,” according to its creators.

The colorful book was the brainchild of local architect Melody Harclerode, the president-elect of the Atlanta chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and an occasional columnist for INtown. Harclerode said the catalyst for the book was an after school architecture program that was introduced at Buckhead’s E. Rivers Elementary School in 2010.

“Part of that curriculum was to balance out an over-emphasis and over-use of computers,” Harclerode said. “We wanted to provide an alternative activity that uses the hands.”

The book is a tool to help children in third through sixth grades learn about architecture design in a fun, hands-on, tactile way that also includes history and math.

An example exercise is letting students add an amenity to their school, whether it’s a rollercoaster, swimming pool or zip line. Another lets kids learn about light by cutting out openings in boxes to show the path of sunlight inside a structure. And yet another teaches budding project managers how to calculate the cost of a building.

Since kids love to build things, Harclerode said common household goods, like shoeboxes and paper towel tubes, can be used to create models of their dream home.

Featured throughout “Discover ARCHITECTURE” are sketches of well-known Atlanta landmarks like The Varsity, Fox Theatre, High Museum, Westin Peachtree Plaza and Ponce City Market, with notes about their architectural and historic significance. They were drawn by noted Atlanta architect John Busby.

While the textbook is Atlanta-centric, Harclerode said it was designed so that the curriculum could be used in Miami or Alaska.

An elementary school in suburban Chicago plans to incorporate the textbook into its 2015-16 curriculum, while Georgia Tech has purchased copies to use in its CEISMC program that assists K-12 students in Georgia prepare to use science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the modern world. Harclerode plans to speak at the National Arts Educators conference in March about the book.

Last fall, students at E. Rivers, Morris Brandon, Garden Hills, Springdale Park, Centennial and Hope Hill elementary schools used the book to create their own re-imagined Atlanta landmark buildings. They will be on display, and the book will be on sale, during the AIA National Convention which will be held in Atlanta this May.

Harclerode said “Discover ARCHITECTURE” would not have been possible without volunteers who spent two years putting the book together. Those include photographer and “Discover ARCHITECTURE” program co-founder Phillip Alexander-Cox; graphic designer Jereme Smith; editor Robert Kauffman; and photographers Tim Ridley and Theresa Ridley. Harclerode also credited Susan Proper, executive director of AIA Atlanta, for her support in creating the program and book.

“Discover ARCHITECTURE” is available at

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.