In light of recent coverage on the value of a design education, organizations across the country have begun to open up the field to a more unlikely population – middle and high school students. As the contemporary education system faces continued criticism, alternatives like Citizen Schools and Afterschool Alliance have developed student programs to supplement options during after-school time and the summer months.
These programs expose younger students to a number of fields they might know little about, including architecture, engineering, and urban planning. However, the main benefit, say some supporters, is that they foster creative problem-solving and critical thinking skills – qualities that can fall to the wayside in an educational era focused on achieving “proficiency” and acing standardized tests.
In the Northeast, Boston Architectural College (BAC) offers one of the more popular options, hosting a month-long summer program focused on design exploration and fundamental architectural concepts. Students collaborate on skill-building projects centered on sustainability, structure, and the contemporary built environment, and utilize drawing, model building, and mapping techniques.
Programs like BAC can support unlikely collaborations through recruitment and scholarships aimed at traditionally underrepresented populations in the design field – minority, low-income, and female. By exercising their right-brain thinking, students gain mentorship and exposure to modern design professionals from Harvard Graduate School of Design, MIT, and Rhode Island School of Design, to name a few.
There are, of course, more traditional – and expensive – career exploration options for students to jump into the design field, including pre-college courses taken at accredited universities. Yet, for students who ultimately choose another career path, the design skills gained in these alternative programs will serve them well. Curious, creative thinkers with a keen problem-solving streak? We could use more of them.
How do you view this trend in design education? What kind of local issues facing your community would lend themselves to a youth perspective?
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