By Steve Wilkerson

Recently, I visited Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School to teach an introduction to architecture class to a group of eager 4th and 5th grade students. Almost the entire school, 97% of the students at King Elementary, qualify for the National School Lunch Program that provides free and reduced meals to low-income students. The class was organized as part of OASIS, an initiative that seeks to positively impact at-risk youth through arts mentoring programs. I led one of 21 lessons that were taught by a group of local volunteer architects, based on the AIA’s Built Environment Education Program (BEEP).

I began the class with a short presentation and PowerPoint to explain how people get interested in the field and to give an overview of the essential elements of architecture. I explained how many architects are drawn to the profession at a young age through their experiences building with blocks, constructing blanket forts, and making sandcastles and how that sense of playfulness and creativity can last a lifetime. Following the presentation, I had the students do a hands-on activity in which they cut out photos from magazines to create their own architecture collages.

Teaching at King Elementary was a very rewarding experience because the students were genuinely excited to learn about architecture. I also felt a renewed sense of excitement about my profession and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to inspire such an engaged and enthusiastic groups of students.

>>Download the AIA’s BEEP handbook here.



Student presenting