It was builders versus architects Wednesday morning at Crosstown Learning Center.

Employees from Manhattan Construction squared off against folks from GH2 Architects in a fort-building competition at the early childhood learning center.

The builders focused on height, creating a fort reminiscent of a castle. The architects took a tunnel approach, with a long snaking structure with skylights and other openings.

In the end, the winners were the children, who got to spend the morning climbing and crawling throughout the two structures.

“As much as all of this looks like play, our children are learning a bunch of skills, and I’m sure we have some budding engineers and contractors in those hallways today,” said Debbi Guilfoyle, the center’s executive director.

The fort building competition was part of the Week of the Child, an awareness campaign by the accrediting organization National Association for the Education of the Young Child in order to celebrate children and their families.

One of the precepts of early childhood education is that kids learn through play.

By playing and interacting with the volunteers as they built the forts, the children were exposed to shapes, size, dimension, weight and height.

“All children learn differently, but all children play. We know that play is the opportunity for them to express their creativity,” Guilfoyle said. “This gives us opportunities to engage them in gross motor and fine motor activities.”

GH2 and Manhattan Construction were the designers and builders of Crosstown’s new facility. The building, 2501 E. Archer St., opened in 2017.

“One of the greatest gifts we have is one another,” Guilfoyle said. “Having the opportunity for children to recognize their world is made up of more than their moms and dads, families and childcare centers, and helping children learn these community partners are here to support and guide them is such a gift.”

Crosstown, which has an enrollment of 102, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

The early learning center cares for children ages six weeks through pre-K. Nearly 50 percent of the kids stay with the program for four years.

Steve Ortwein, director of preconstruction services with Manhattan, spent much of his morning dispensing tape to the kids who were helping build their fort.

“We decided to replicate what we enjoyed as children,” he said. “Sometimes we get stuck in this world of iPads and computers. This is a fun, physical activity we can do to show cooperation and have some fun.”

Michael Hall, principal with GH2, agreed.

“It’s awesome, using boxes, plastic bottles and lots of masking tape,” he said. “It’s fun watching and working with the kiddos while they have a good time.”

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Mike Averill


Twitter: @Mike_Averill