I always like starting the semester with a first day activity. You risk that the students might find it silly or that they will not be able to engage with strangers. Oddly, just the opposite occurs and people loosen up. Group work takes the stress off introducing yourself. You can see how people behave when under a time constraint. The leaders always lead and the quiet ones seem a bit more at ease.
I try to cover something structural but simple. A concept that is basic but a little challenging sets the mark. My students can build full tensile models, the very first day. Using simple tools, some background information and a full detailed description of the activity is important. I always hope they will look radically different in design when finished. Some students embrace classic style and others reach for impact even if it costs them time on those first design sketches. I photograph the outcomes and share on Facebook. It breaks the ice for some of the more straight forward architectural lecturing. Students are more likely to reach out with a cell number if they have had this first bonding opportunity. Everyone leaves with a smile.
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