Alexis and the Community Interface Committee (CIC) of AIA Chicago have been volunteering this spring with 8th graders at Cameron Elementary School in Humboldt Park. For the past year the CIC has been working to assemble the Architects in Schools program to teach design thinking and social agency to eighth grade classes in Chicago Public Schools. Eighth grade was selected as the target year as initiatives exist for younger children and high schoolers, but opportunities are limited for the critical age when students are considering high school options.
After developing a 6-week curriculum where students start with quick sketching and end with building models of projects to serve the neighborhood, the CIC brought the program to Cameron for its pilot run. It was a success! The kids at Cameron were instantly interested and engaged, providing critical insight and ideas that surprised even themselves. All the groups independently concluded that the same project type, a youth center, was what the neighborhood was lacking, and that having such a place would give students a safe, constructive, and fun space to study, interact, eat, exercise, and be kids without the threat of gang or gun violence that often overshadows their time outside of school. The students very much enjoyed building with the donated material samples, many from WJW’s library. The CIC was even able to convince Alderman Maldonado to attend the final project presentations and launch a conversation with the students and the principal about change in their neighborhood. The volunteers visited the students a last time for a celebratory pizza and awards party and feedback session on the program.
The Community Interface Committee is a Knowledge Community of AIA Chicago that serves to link the architecture community to the greater community through educational programming, volunteerism, and opportunities for engagement. Alexis has been an active member of the CIC since 2011 and is currently serving as the 2015-2016 co-chair.