Breakthrough’s fourth- and fifth-graders were back in action with the Refortify volunteers this spring, building forts and learning design and architecture skills. For five weeks, students learned about design principles and then put them to use during a grand finale “Dream Fort” build day, where they worked with volunteer professional design teams to build their forts using donated clothing, bedding and building materials. To bring it all full circle, they also learned about professions they might consider where these skills are used.

This year’s Build Day was held at the National Furniture Showroom on April 18, followed by a play day on April 19 where the students enjoyed the forts and their hard work together. An Industry Fundraiser showing off the forts was then held on April 20.

“Refortify is a great example of the type of quality partnerships that Breakthrough has,” said Shalom Watts, Associate Director of the Breakthrough Arts and Science Academy. “I loved watching the kids’ looks of amazement as they saw the plans they made materialize in front of their eyes.”

This is Refortify’s fourth event with Breakthrough students. It all started when Refortify founders Brian Buckley and Mayur Patel were looking for a Chicagoarea nonprofit to partner with, and met with Breakthrough leadership. Refortify volunteer Blair Woerfel said that Refortify was created in an effort to widen the breadth of possibilities for kids, as well as “a desire to spread knowledge about fun and exciting careers in the art and design field.”

“We all value this annual opportunity to bring design-thinking skills to young people so they can use them in other facets of their life,” Blair said. “But our passions are truly rooted in seeing the appreciation and smiles on these great kids’ faces when they realize they are taking the wheel on designing and making something … something big, too! They are so into it and that always makes us more passionate to teach and learn with them more.”

For example, one of the students had never used a tape measure before, Blair said. After they taught her how, she was the go-to student for measuring fort materials.

Blair added that this year, the students seemed to dig especially deep into their work.

“They had very specific dos and don’ts and ideas of how these forts should work,” she said. “They all took it to the next level, and it’s easy to see that in the final outcomes.”

The five awards for this year’s event went to the following:

  • Kid’s Choice – “Man Cave” Horn/Andreu World/and Others
  • People’s Choice – “Rocket Fort” VDTA/M+O/JJ
  • Best Use of Donations – “Rave Cave” PBD/Spartan Surfaces
  • Best Interpretation of Concept – “Blue Royals” PW/Carnegie/Mohawk/Inscape
  • Best Interview Ensemble – “Triple A” CallisonRTKL/Mohawk

 A full list of all the forts are below:

  • Fort #1 – “Rave Cave” by Partners By Design & Spartan with Raven Wheeler
  • Fort #2 – “The Golden House” by Wight & Company & Bentley Mills with Jamarius Jackson, Tyshon Smith, and Kristian Smith
  • Fort #3 – “Man Cave” by Horn & Andreu World with Norris Coleman, Brennis Dillard, & Zavion Marsh
  • Fort #4 – “Skittles 4 Life” by SCB & National with Ayana Evans and Joslyn Williams
  • Fort #5 – “Rocket Fort” by VDTA & M+O & JJ Flooring with Robert Bennett & Jacob Merkson
  • Fort #6 – “All You Need Cave” by BKV Group & Sickler with Bryce Howse & PJ Underwood
  • Fort #7 – “April Showers” by Stantec with Daisha Bibbs
  • Fort #8 – “T+L Love Emojis” by Nelson & Interior Investments with Latalya Crockett & Tomika Reed
  • Fort #9 – “The Party Tent” by a mash up team from lots of firms and Wilkhahn with Mekhi McGee, Willo Riley, & James Crockett
  • Fort #10 – “MJ” by OKW Architects & Shaw Contract with Markiyah Washington & Jade Johnson
  • Fort #11 – “Maliszah Stadium” by Shive Hattery & Bernhardt with Meliszah Coleman
  • Fort #12 – “Blue Royals” by P+W, Carnegie, Mohawk & Inscape with Precious Beatest
  • Fort #13 – “Triple A” by CallisonRTKL & Mohawk with Armoni Wilson, Aaliyah Roberson & Alayah Derden