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My Day at McMurray Elementary School

Presenting to Elementary Students on the Practice of Architecture

By Jennifer Beck, AIA Posted on April 12, 2018


New Peters Township High School Rendering, Hayes Design Group Architects

Jennifer Beck, AIA, Project Architect at Hayes Design Group Architects, recently attended Career Day at Peters Township School District’s McMurray Elementary School. She, along with a number of other special guests, presented to fourth, fifth, and sixth-grade students about different careers to consider. Jennifer shared information about the field of architecture and all that goes into designing buildings. She also showed the students some examples of HDG’s recent projects, including the design of the new Peters Township High School (which recently went out to bid). After Career Day, Jennifer received a number of very creative and thoughtful thank you notes from the students!

Peters Township’s McMurray Elementary School holds a Career Day each year, with twenty or so professionals who come to the school and speak to students in small groups about different career options. I had the privilege to attend the event for the second year in a row to share information about the field of architecture. It proved to be more of a challenge than I had anticipated presenting on “The Practice of Architecture” in just 20 minutes or less!

Most students had a limited view of what Architecture is, and what Architects do. During more than one session I entertained the question, “Why isn’t a builder or engineer enough?” Our profession has its work cut out for us! We went through a mini programming and schematic design charrette for simple spaces that kids would be familiar with – a library or a restaurant, for example – to help gain an understanding of how the design process could work. Likening the iterative quality of the design process to the writing process gave the students a sense of how one might break down the big problem of creating a new building into manageable parts.

The team-oriented nature of the architectural design and building construction processes was an important focus of the presentation. Elementary schools are increasingly incorporating teamwork and collaboration into the educational process, so it’s an idea that children can relate to, perhaps more so now than 20 years ago.

We also took the time to go through the process of architectural education, training, and registration. Many students (and a few teachers!) were surprised by the complexity of “becoming” a licensed architect. Being with the kids was a terrific opportunity to share my enthusiasm for the practice of architecture, and I felt rejuvenated when I returned to my desk later that day.

The students write thank you notes as a part of the Career Day experience, and I received some great ones! It warms the heart to think that a young person was inspired, even a little bit, about what we presented, and that they might look at their surroundings and their world through different eyes…Perhaps there’s a Renzo Piano, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, or Denise Scott Brown just waiting to emerge. It’s worth an hour or a half-day of your time to call your local school district and find out if they have a similar Career Day event in which you could partake!

My “The Practice of Architecture” Career Day Presentation Outline:

  • What is Architecture?
  • What do Architects do?
  • How do they get work?
  • Why does the world need Architects?
  • Isn’t a builder enough?
  • What is the process of designing a building?
  • What is the final product of the Architect’s work (other than the building)?
  • Teamwork is essential!
  • Architecture happens in several ways (New construction, Renovation, Urban planning/design).
  • What classes should I take if I think I might want to be an Architect?
  • How do I become an Architect? (college, AXP, exam)
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2 Responses to My Day at McMurray Elementary School

  1. Thank you for taking the time to inspire our kids. Our daughter (grade 6) really loved it. So much so, she then informed us she plans to become an architect and asked us to find a division 1 field hockey program that offers this degree and isn’t too far away…dreaming big all the way 🙂

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