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Design is a Verb: Architects, Design Thinking and Project-Based Learning With 21st Century Teens

Sarah will be co-leading a discussion with the CAF and the ACE Mentor program at the 2013 AIA National Convention and Design Exposition in Denver. Image © Gensler

Project-based learning is a teaching strategy used in high schools across the country. The practice incorporates problem solving, creative thinking, and communication into real-world applications. Many of these skills taught in these courses are similar to the ones architects and designers use every day as part of the design process. The similarity between what high school students are learning in the classroom and what architects and designers are doing in their studios creates an opportunity for engagement between these two communities.

With this in mind, Gensler Chicago has sponsored an ACE Mentorship team of high school students for the past several years, leading them through all the steps of the design process from concept to final design presentation. The ACE Mentor program (ACE stands for architecture, construction, and engineering) is focused on engaging and inspiring high school students to pursue careers in design and construction. The mentors are a mix of architects, interior designers, and engineers; they engage the students in design thinking through a variety of activities, such as sketching, modeling, research, and presentation. Whether or not the students continue in the study of architecture and design, the skills taught in the ACE program are designed to help them regardless of the future career path they choose.

As a leader of the Gensler Chicago ACE mentor team and an active volunteer for the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s teen education programs, I will be co-leading a discussion with the CAF and the ACE Mentor program at the AIA National Convention on the opportunities for architects to serve as mentors to high school students and help them become better design thinkers. Interested? You can attend the presentation in person in Denver on Saturday, June 22, at 8:30 a.m., or stream it live from the AIA Convention website.

Sarah is a project architect in the Gensler Chicago office, working across several practice areas. She is passionate about mentorship of the next generation, and is a dedicated advocate for youth architectural education programs. Contact her at Sarah_Jacobson@gensler.com.

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