Lighting the Spark

by Robert Imber  on May 1, 2019 | Blog, Students | No comments

You can join us in investing in the future of preservation by making a donation to CPF’s Student Scholarships Fund. Every dollar contributed to this fund goes directly to students, through our various scholarship programs.

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In February, CPF’s Executive Director, Cindy Heitzman visited St. Theresa Church School in Palm Springs, where an exciting program developed by the Palm Springs Modern Committee (PSMODCOM) introduces students from 4th to 8th grades to the world of midcentury architecture. Over the years, they work on projects that help them appreciate the buildings that surround them and develop useful skills, lighting and growing a spark of interest in the language of architecture. At the 2019 California Preservation Conference, you can see architectural models from these students in the registration area at the Hilton Palm Springs. The young architects themselves will be on site at the conference center on Friday, May 10th, from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM, just before the CPF Membership Luncheon, to give tours of their work.

In 4th grade, students create multiple pieces of art inspired by architectural drawings and photographs, following a presentation about how architects uses drawing to communicate ideas and things that we observe. In previous years, student’s created ceramic tiles, and this year created paper collages using their own drawings and designs.

The 5th grade program includes, among other in-class work, a bus tour, narrated and led by former CPF Trustee Robert Imber, to see and visit important Palm Springs modern architectural highlights first-hand. Conducted late in the school year, the tour introduces the students to many of the buildings they will be exploring in their 6th grade project. Often, the tour inspires choices of buildings for their 6th grade model subject.

Students in 6th grade choose a significant modern Palm Springs building or residence that they research to build an architectural scale model. They also write a creative essay about the building, in the first-person, as if the building were speaking. This process begins with a slide lecture by Imber and Julie Rogers, PSMODCOM Board Member and Education Committee Co-Chair, followed by a presentation by architectural model maker David Webb, of the Palm Springs Art Museum. Webb conducts an in-class lesson to introduce the students to creative model making methods, tools and materials, and returns before the project is complete to provide further technical assistance to the students. A selection of these models will be on display at the California Preservation Conference, along with the young architects-in-training who designed them.

When they reach 7th grade, the students write a longer report about an international event which incorporates a significant and relevant work of modern architecture. They then produce a painting which brings together ideas about both the architecture and the event. The 6th grader’s models, and the 7th graders paintings, are then displayed at Modernism Week, along with PowerPoint interviews made by the 8th grade students.

Finally, the 8th graders divide into teams of 3-4 students to prepare a PowerPoint presentation about a preselected topic. They conduct research and interviews with relevant adults who contribute to their reports. They also create video interviews, which get edited and incorporated into their slide lecture along with text, graphics, and photos. The teams deliver their presentation, with each student contributing verbal segments, at the School’s April Open House. This event also features the Architecture Program display of student work from the other grades.

The California Preservation Foundation is committed to sparking interest in architectural heritage, and making the necessary investments to allow that spark to grow. This year, one of the groups was assigned to research CPF, and Executive Director Cindy Heitzman sat for an interview with them to discuss our work, history, and impact. She used images and stories from some of the more than 500 past Preservation Design Award winners to explain why preservation is important.

Over the last year, CPF has made major investments in the future of preservation, finding multiple ways of getting students involved and interested in preservation. From our new student scholarships to free student membership, we are working to make preservation accessible and affordable to the people that will carry our shared heritage forward. Last year CPF awarded a total of more than $3,000 in scholarships to students throughout California, to further their education in preservation. These scholarships, made possible because of generous funding from Liz’s Antique Hardware, are now in the second year, and we are looking for investors who believe in preservation education to help us grow this fund.

You can read more about our student outreach and scholarships at, or use the button below to make a donation to the scholarship fund today, and make an investment in the future of preservation. Every dollar contributed to this fund goes directly to students, through our various scholarship programs.

About the Author

Robert Imber is a lifelong visitor and twenty-year resident of Palm Springs who's been a vocal and active advocate for architectural preservation for more than twenty-five years. He is a former Trustee of the California Preservation Foundation (CPF) and founding member of the Palm Springs Modern Committee (PSMODCOM), where he serves as Chairman of the Education Committee. Robert was founder and director of MUSARCH, a museum of architecture in John Lautner’s "Alto Capistrano" in San Juan Capistrano, CA, and is executive producer of the documentary, Desert Utopia: Mid-Century Architecture in Palm Springs. Author, preservationist, historian, Robert was recipient of Palm Springs Life Magazine’s “101 Most Influential”; the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism Partner of the Year; the 2009 PSMODCOM Preservationist of the Year award and recipient of a TRIPADVISOR "Certificate of Excellence". Originally from St. Louis, MO, Robert has served on various boards including the NEWSCHOOL Arts Foundation at the NEWSCHOOL of Architecture and Design, San Diego, CA, and the San Clemente Historical Society, San Clemente, CA.