st theresa catholic school palm springs

Model Students

By creating replicas of modern architecture, schoolchildren gain appreciation for their local heritage.

Jeremy Kinser Current PSL, Modernism

st theresa catholic school palm springs
Palm Springs International Airport by Bassette Cayasso.

111 East


Teach your children well, and they’ll be capable of great things one day — or at least great miniature things right now. That’s a guiding philosophy of Palm Springs Modern Committee, a nonprofit devoted to the preservation of modernist desert architecture that has spearheaded a curriculum at St. Theresa Catholic School that culminates in the creation of scaled models of some of the Coachella Valley’s most iconic structures.

Linda Patton-Hiatt, the school’s sixth grade instructor, says all 30 students in her class build a model. But their architecture education actually begins three years earlier when PS ModCom Education Committee members visit with a presentation showcasing the historical significance of many local buildings. In fifth grade, students take a field trip to visit some of Palm Springs’ most significant homes and structures, and in sixth grade, they select a home or building for their model and research the architect who designed them.

It’s at this time that committee member David Webb, an artist who specializes in architectural models, delivers building materials and teaches the students about scale. Throughout the next few months, the students make their own painstakingly detailed miniature replicas of their favorite structures, such as the Palm Springs Art Museum, The Saguaro Palm Springs, Tramway gas station, and their own school.

“It’s so rewarding,” says Robert Imber, a founding member of the Education Committee. “These young people are already starting to think in architectural vernacular.”

architecture and design center palm springs

Architecture and Design Center by Timothy O'Donnell.

saguaro palm springs model

The Saguaro by Sadie Paiz

raymond loewy house model

The House on the Rocks by Alexis Murtagh.

tramway gas station

Tramway Gas Station by Taylor Reichle.

tramway gas station palm springs

Tramway Gas Station by Taylor Reichle.

palm springs visitors center

Palm Springs Visitors Center by Kennedi Fister.

Their models will be on public display during two Modernism Week open houses at St. Theresa Catholic School, followed by an exhibit at the Palm Springs Library and a possible summer appearance at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Knowledge and appreciation of local architecture and history, Patton-Hiatt believes, will encourage children to continue the preservation of these structural works of art. That’s a full-sized reward for people of all ages.

• READ NEXT: Check Out These Iconic Buildings on Your Modernism Tour of the Desert.