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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
April 19, 2004
Volume 39, Number 14

Branch campus/state news

Built on education

UNM master's thesis becomes Isleta Pueblo's new Head Start facility

By Carolyn Gonzales

Janet Carpio's plan for the “multipurpose room” incorporated colors of the four cardinal directions. Photo by Carolyn Gonzales.

Architecture and Planning Professor Emerita Edie Cherry says it's the rare architecture master's thesis that makes the leap from concept and drawing to building. Janet Carpio is one of few students whose design ideas are becoming reality.

Carpio was looking for a thesis design project when she approached Isleta Pueblo native Ted Jojola, a planner and Regents Professor in the school. “I had been working for a long time with Head Start in Isleta and knew of their preliminary ideas to expand the facility when Janet approached me, introduced herself and told me she needed a project. It was synchronicity,” Jojola said.

Carpio, whose father is from Isleta, met with people at Head Start. “I fell in love with what they're all about, how they teach by incorporating indigenous projects in the classroom,” she said. Carpio and others drove around Isleta until they found the ideal site for a new Head Start school.

Since 1965, Head Start, the most successful early childhood development program of its kind in the United States, has educated more than 20 million at-risk children. The emphasis of Head Start is to make America's most vulnerable kids “ready to learn” in school.

Head Start Director Jennifer Tollefson y Chavez wanted the community to have input on the project and its design. So, through the Land Claims Commission they held charettes, met with the staff and attended children's events, Carpio said.

“Research always takes place before the design phase,” said Cherry, Carpio's mentor, master's chair and current employer.

Carpio extensively researched the tribe's history. “I traced Isleta's history back to Chaco Canyon, tracked the migration of the Tiwa people in order to establish a cultural precedent,” she said. For architectural precedent, among several case studies, she looked at the design for the Taos Pueblo Head Start facility she designed between earning her bachelor's and master's.

Carpio graduated with distinction from UNM in May 1999. At the same time Head Start was looking for revenue because they had outgrown their existing facility. “They received HUD funding and the tribe also contributed,” Carpio said. A licensed architect is required to supervise plan development, so she asked Edie Cherry if her firm was interested. Architects must take a state exam for licensure and although not yet licensed, Carpio plans to take the exam. “Janet did the majority of the architectural drawings and site observations,” Cherry said.

The facility was designed with an understanding and appreciation of the interrelationships between terrestrial, celestial, cosmic and human worlds. “I integrated solstice points into the site plan, construction, material and floor plan to allow people to observe and connect with a much larger landscape integral to indigenous architecture, specifically to the Isleta community,” Carpio said.

Head Start children will enter their homerooms from the playground to the east, in Tiwa tradition. The masonry wall mimics mountains to the east.

The floor plan integrates creation and the path of Tiwa life through room arrangement – infants in the center with the older children's rooms spiraling out counterclockwise with age.

“The floor pattern reflects Isleta life with blue representing water surrounding browns which represents earth – ‘Isleta' means ‘isle' – and green represents crops. The colors of the four cardinal directions are represented in the multi-purpose room,” Carpio said. Pathways lie in the direction of solstice and the cardinal directions while a hallway that lowers as it curves out toward the southeast playfully symbolizes a return to earth, she said.

The facility also has ample space for social workers to work confidentially and to observe children unobtrusively.

“The most amazing part of this project has been repatriating Janet back into the Isleta community,” Jojola said. Because her family relocated many times during her youth, she didn't get to know relatives.

The project took Carpio on a journey of discovery. “I learned the myths, the traditions. It's nice to know I'm a part of this culture as well as the larger world,” she said.

Carpio is currently designing a similar facility for Sandia Pueblo. “I hope to contribute to other tribes the expertise I gained from this and other projects. It has given me a new Indian sensibility because it is who I am as a designer,” she said.

Hasbro supports Kids Kollege

By Chad Perry
These two young scholars are participating in the Kids Kollege program at UNM-Valencia. They are participating in a chemistry experiment that is a little smelly – the eye dropper has ammonia in it.

Ten years ago this semester about 40 fourth-graders from the Los Lunas School District ventured onto the UNM-Valencia Campus on a Friday morning.

But it wasn't to play.

“The school district wanted the kids to use computers and the science labs,” said Rita Gallegos-Logan, program manager of the Community Education Services.

The idea was to introduce gifted young children to some fun elements of education – and to the idea of college. It was a test project.

“The district liked it so much that they expanded to 72 children in the fall semester,” Logan said.

Since that humble beginning, the Kids Kollege program has grown to 300 children per semester. Students from Belen, Los Lunas and Isleta Pueblo schools take part in classes ranging from sign language to printmaking to making a newspaper.

Grants from various foundations support the program. The latest is from the Hasbro Foundation. This $10,000 grant will be used during the 2004-05 school year to bring economically disadvantaged Latino and Native American fourth graders to UNM-Valencia for a college experience. Other funding has been awarded from the McCune Foundation, Burlington Northern, Lockheed Martin/Sandia Labs, Intel and the Albuquerque Community Foundation.

As the program evolves, so does the sophistication of what is taught. “For instance, we started with basic keyboarding on the computer,” Logan explained. “Now some of the children know as much as the instructors about computers, so we teach them Web design or how to do Internet research.”

“You just wait,” she said. “We'll see these kids on campus attending college after they graduate high school.”