Architecture in Education

The Architecture in Education (AIE) program provides children the opportunity to explore the creative profession of architecture through hands-on workshops with practicing professionals and university students. The program seeks to connect the subjects students learn in the classroom with real-world issues and projects related to the physical world around them.

Who We Are

AIE, a program of the Philadelphia Center for Architecture, was established in 1981. The program was started by a dedicated group of volunteer teachers and architects who believe that students who learn how cities are made, how design affects human behavior, how the natural and built worlds affect each other, and how individuals influence their environments will become competent leaders of our communities.

AIE is acknowledged internationally as a model for built environment education in K-12 classrooms. The program uses architecture as the basis for hands-on, interactive projects that connect, integrate and deepen student learning across the curriculum. In AIE, students explore their world through drawing, writing, model making, neighborhood walks, field trips, research, observation, and class presentation. They become active learners and problem-solvers.

What We Do

Each year, AIE offers several Eight-Week Classroom Programs for children in kindergarten through the 12th grade throughout the Greater Philadelphia region. Each program is custom-designed and taught by a three-person team, which consists of the classroom teacher, a volunteer architect or design professional, and a university architecture student who receives course credit for his or her participation. The architect and the architecture student visit the classroom once a week for a one-and-a-half hour period over the eight weeks.

The teacher integrates this program into the students' curriculum and helps communicate and clarify the new ideas. The architect connects the children to a new domain of knowledge, to the world of work, and offers ideas for hands-on projects that build upon what the children are studying that semester. The architecture student connects the children to the world of the university, and acts as a bridge between the classroom students and the architect.

The AIE advisory committee assists each team in the design of their program, suggests resource material, supports them in the classroom, and evaluates the outcome.

AIE Eight-Week Classroom Program Goals:
Whatever the subject - art, math, language arts, geography, social studies, history, science - AIE uses the built environment to stimulate new ways of seeing and learning. Experiential activities teach basic concepts, awakening in students a greater awareness and understanding of what is around them.
Students learn how:

  • The subjects they learn in school apply to the real world
  • Cities and towns are designed and built
  • History is reflected in a community's architecture
  • Climate, geography, and culture affect the built environment
  • Design of the built environment affects human behavior

For Teachers

Architecture is all around us and we all make decisions every day that influence our environment. This is what Architecture in Education teaches you and your students. You need no special expertise to open up a whole world and new way of seeing to your students.

Gallery of Projects
We have thirty years of projects covering a wide range of topics about the built environment.

Here are a few highlights:

Sample Lesson Plans


  • Architecture in Education: A Resource of Imaginative Ideas and Tested Activities
    • This "idea book", which has been used as the basis for educational architecture workshops the world over, is a guide to projects about architecture and the built environment organized by topic, curriculum, and age group.
  • STRUCTURE Poster
    • This 20" x 37" poster communicates in a clear, visual way, the basic concepts of structure, building, and architecture.

Learn about ideas on how architecture relates to school subject areas.

For Architects and Other Design Professionals

Help promote our profession to the next generation of architects and builders. Use your experiences to help children make the logical link between the subjects they're studying in school and the world around them. Help them broaden their horizons and look beyond the classroom to their community. We'd love to have you participate by visiting a Philadelphia-area classroom as part of our 8-week program!

At the same time, you will jumpstart your creative juices, see your profession in a fresh new way, and have a great time! The classroom teacher, your student design partner, and our mentors will work together with you to help focus and refine your direction. You'll also have resources and scenarios based on 30 years of classroom experiences.

To learn more, read our Survival Guide for Architects.

Sample Activities:

For Parents

Architecture and Children: Building the Connections

Architecture unites culture with human perception and technology. The study of the built environment includes the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, historic preservation and planning. Buildings express, through the artistic organization of materials according to the laws of physics, peoples' need and belief in community organizing. Because children are natural builders, they enact this unity through their play and inquiry of the world around them.

Click here for ideas on how to include architecture-learning in home play.