Austin Architect Goes “Back to School”

  • Jan 17, 2017

By Erin Bettison, Marketing Manager, Austin

Last fall, Justin Bell, a member of the Beck Architecture team in our Austin office, donated his time to the AIA’s Architecture in Schools program. Justin spent two months going “back to school” at Zilker Elementary in the heart of Austin, Texas.

Architecture in Schools is an eight-week program designed to teach third, fourth and fifth graders about the role of architecture in their environment. The students are taught in a classroom environment with pre-designed lesson plans and hands-on activities, curated by the AIA, to create a piece of architecture by the end of the program. Each grade level is specifically designed to cater to the learning abilities of its respective students, starting on a small scale for third graders (with a design of a house) and moving up to community buildings (a school design) for fourth graders, then finally a neighborhood project for fifth graders.

Justin worked with a group of enthusiastic third graders at Zilker Elementary. He visited their classroom every week and another member of the Beck Austin office often joined him.

Justin had this to say about the experience:

“The kids were intrigued to learn about all aspects of architecture. Each week we discussed design at a city, neighborhood, and building scale so that they could understand how their project impacted the city.  This also allowed them to realize how extensive water, electricity, and transportation systems have to be to provide services to each home. It surprised me how interested they were in learning about plumbing! We brought in drawing sets from previous Beck projects so that they could see the various drawings we and our consultants create before the building can be constructed. I enjoyed walking the kids through our process and appreciated their creativity. I learned Halloween themed houses, secret passageways, and rooms filled with candy are all among a few things that are lacking in contemporary architecture!”

The program culminated with a studio-style presentation by the students of their houses to the entire class and members from the Beck Architecture team. On the week before the final class, Justin took pictures of all of the homes and photoshopped in skylines, people and other features so the students could present from a projector a “rendering” of how their house might function and look in a true environment.


Learn more about AIA’s Architecture in Schools program here.