Introducing architecture into the K-12 curriculum

 Courtesy of the University at Buffalo, Photography: Douglas Levere

AIA is working to develop a long-term strategy to introduce architecture and the role of architects into curriculum for grades K-12.

Find out how AIA is working to bring architecture to students of all demographics and income groups, including new research into architecture and design education programs across the country

As a new school year begins, what’s new at AIA National is a board-level commitment to engage the K-12 community as never before.

This reengagement began with the appointment by then-AIA President Russ Davidson, FAIA, of the 2016 K-12 Task Force. Its members were chosen for their knowledge of past and current AIA programs, curriculum development, school management, modern educational facility design, and public outreach, as well as their passion and commitment to the idea that architecture can provide an appropriate and effective framework for the collaborative, problem-based K-12 education needed for current and future generations.

The task force’s initial charge was to create a long-term strategy to introduce architecture and the role of architects into curriculum for grades K-12, including developing an appreciation for architecture and the role that architects play in shaping the built environment. Especially important was to emphasize how architecture touches all demographic and income groups, with the hope of increased interest from underrepresented populations.

As planned, the task force “sunsetted” at the end of 2016; to ensure continuity and continued progress, a smaller K-12 Working Group was formed. This group, charged with beginning the implementation of the strategy, met at Grassroots in March of 2017 and crafted the following vision, mission, and goal for AIA National’s K-12 Initiatives moving forward:

Vision: Architecture and design education empowers children with the learning habits and critical thinking skills need to thrive over a lifetime.

Mission: The AIA K-12 Initiative develops strategic partnerships, shares instructional resources, and engages architects and educators while providing a more diverse group of young people with an early appreciation of architecture.

Goal: Give students an opportunity to develop an appreciation for architecture and the role that architects play in shaping the built environment.

The role of The Scan

As with any legitimate effort, real data must inform further discussion. To that end, Linsey Graff, Assoc. AIA, led a team of architects with AIA staff members to determine the reach of architecture and design education programs across the country.

The Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion K–12 Architecture and Design Education Scan (The Scan) that emerged began as a goal of AIA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Foundations (K-12) Subcommittee. The Subcommittee began preliminary research in 2015 in an attempt to create a searchable online database of K-12 programs in the nation. Inquiries were sent to component or program leaders in the 50 largest US cities, along with components that had more than 700 members.

As surveyed by The Scan, 37 percent of all program types were in-school; 25 percent were after school, and 17 percent were summer camps.

The Scan’s purpose was threefold:

  • Identification of educational programming that offered opportunities for students to engage and learn about the field of architecture
  • Examination of the variety of program opportunities for students
  • Determination of potential programming gaps on a local and regional level

Initial findings

Based on the results from educational programs surveyed, The Scan presented three major findings:

  1. Architecture and design programs present a variety of project and problem based opportunities specific to architecture for students in grades K-12.
  2. A majority (57 percent) of architecture and design programs occur in out of school time settings (after school, weekends, or during the summer).
  3. Over 95 percent of the organizations in The Scan provide strategies to ensure equity, diversity, and inclusion opportunities for all children, families, and communities.

When it comes to the percent of components offering given programs, 66 percent offered high school programs, 45 percent offered middle school programs, and 43 percent offered elementary school programs.

Moving forward

The Scan, in its current state, has provided a baseline of local and regional opportunities for architectural and design education. The information gathered will support the development of a database and/or mapping system that will allow architectural programs to be identifiable by stakeholders around the country. Upon the development of a searchable database, The Scan will become an annual tool to inform the nation as a whole on the impacts of architectural and design education based on programmatic and educational data.

For more on The Scan and AIA's K-12 initiatives, download the complete report.

Stuart L. Coppedge, AIA, is chair of the K-12 Working Group, AIA National's Treasurer for 2016-2017, and principal at RTA Architects.

Image credits

 Courtesy of the University at Buffalo, Photography: Douglas Levere

Courtesy of the University at Buffalo, Photography: Douglas Levere

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