May 21, 2014

This spring, members of our Washington, D.C. Office participated in the Washington Architectural Foundation’s “Architecture in the Schools” (AIS) – a program that pairs volunteer architects with local public schools interested in providing students with an enriched curriculum and an introduction to design.

HKS D.C. has participated in the program for several years. This year, HKS volunteers Shantee Blain, Mindy Goodroe, Abigail Howard, Matthew Noe, Kate Renner, Sara Sepanski, and Amber Wirth partnered with Maury Elementary Science Teacher and “Think Tank” Facilitator, Vanessa Ford, to plan an 8-week curriculum for two classes of Maury Elementary 4th grade students.


Before planning began, HKS engaged the Maury 4th grade homeroom teachers to inquire about the mathematical requirements for their students. HKS volunteers were asked to incorporate lessons about scale, estimation, fractions, and ratios within the curriculum. In addition to the mathematical elements of design, the HKS team developed a syllabus with engaging and highly interactive lessons that investigated the role of the architect in shaping buildings and communities, the relationship between the human body and the built environment, as well as the multi-sensory, interactive experience of space, 2-dimensional drawing of 3-dimensional objects (through plan, section and elevation), sustainable design and community wellness, material durability and toxicity, structure and more.


For the final project, HKS challenged the student architects to design and construct a model of their “Dream Classroom.” Because the school is planning a five-classroom early education addition to their facility, the HKS team posed the students’ final project as a real-life design challenge. The two 4th grade classes each worked on the interior design of one classroom in the expansion. Each classroom was divided into 5 activity zones, typical of an early education classroom at Maury: Table Toys, Animals, Blocks, Reading Zone, and Dramatic Play. Both classes were divided into five firms, and each firm explored the development of one activity zone.


In addition to programmatic and functional design challenges, students were asked to creatively consider resolutions to a number of factors including: interaction and innovation, daylight, environmental wellness, budget, material durability, and accessibility. The lessons from the first several weeks addressed these topics and built a foundation for students on which to consider a wide range of issues.


The program culminated on May 19th at the District Architecture Center. During the special event, each school/firm partnership showcased its semester in a display of student work. There was a slideshow of class photos and videos, a graphic panel with information about the curriculum, and, of course, the students’ incredible final models!

showcase 2

The semester was a huge success! We are very proud of the students and all that they accomplished this spring. This year’s program was truly an office-wide effort as many employees provided craft supplies, helped with lesson plans and offered support. Our partner school is very pleased with the outcome of the semester and even posted about the program on their Think Tank Blog. Check out Vanessa Ford’s post to learn more about the AIS program and about Maury Think Tank:


Student Quotes:

“I liked the model they showed me and the plan view and bird’s eye view things they taught me. I didn’t know architects designed. I thought construction workers did it.”  - Ramel

“I have learned about what it takes to be an architect. You have to do a lot of math, but mostly I liked it because you have to collaborate and design. I love to design.”  - Najae

“My favorite part was making the collage on our part, which was table toys, and we had to cut out from magazines to represent our ideas. I also like that we had a flashlight as the sun and shown it on a 3-D model with windows to see how the light came in and how much.”  - Julian