Design Education

Design Education


Architecture in Education: A Resource of Imaginative Ideas and Tested Activities
published 1986, revised 2009
200 pages

Spiral Bound Manual
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PDF Download
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Design Education

Presented year-round

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Fund a classroom for $1,000 ($85/mo) OR donate ANY amount

Details can be found below

The Center's mission is to engage and educate the public about the value of architecture and design. 

One of the primary ways we do that is through our Design Education programs. These programs include:

(1) Architecture + Design in Education in-class program;

(2) Free Design Workshops; and

(3) Custom programs with partner organizations (contact us for more information).

The Center has prioritized K-12 design education as a primary focus of the organization based on our following value statements:
  • We believe every student should have access to design education
  • We believe that a diverse design community is more responsive and accountable to the communities it designs for
  • We believe that connecting the general public and the design community helps solve some of the most pressing problems in our city
  • We believe that thoughtful design can inspire and empower people within their local communities


Our Architecture + Design in Education program is provided at no cost to Philadelphia public school classrooms and teachers. The Center is seeking support, both financial and volunteer, to expand this program into as many Philadelphia classrooms as possible.


The Center for Architecture and Design's in-classroom program empowers the next generation to be effective shapers of and advocates for our city, our neighborhoods, our parks, and public spaces. The program introduces the design process to K-12 students in the classroom via a series of engaging hands-on STEAM workshops taught by practicing architects, designers, and engineers. Students not only learn about career paths in architecture, engineering, and construction, but also learn how to use design to become better stewards of their neighborhoods and champions for a more useful, beautiful, and equitable city.

Since 2017, the Center’s program has been growing through a staff- and volunteer-led effort.  The Center has integrated its curriculum into modern pedagogical standards, including Common Core and Next Generation Science standards, built relationships with 5 public schools, and expanded the in-classroom program in these schools. In 2021, we significantly expanded all of our Design Education offerings by hiring our first-ever, full-time Director of Design Education, Michael Spain, Assoc AIA, NOMA. 

We have created 5 standard project-based lesson plans that use architecture and the built environment as the medium in which multiple design disciplines, architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, furniture design, graphic design, and interior design, can be explored, while expanding students’ vocabulary and using the design process to solve problems.

Project 1: Building to Learn. This project incorporates architectural vocabulary and encourages students to think about the structure of the building and the tension, compression, load and support of different buildings in their neighborhood.

Project 2: The Shape of Things.  This project breaks down the built environment into various shapes and uses images of Philadelphia buildings for students to identify and find specific shapes in the buildings.  Students will learn how to draw a plan view, section view, and an elevation view -- and to understand the difference. 

Project 3: Interior Spaces & Favorite Places.  This project focuses on building interiors. Students will get creative and design their dream room, and then they will put themselves into various design roles, such as interior designer, furniture designer, even graphic designer – as patterns and colors of walls and surface areas are discussed. Students must also design a room for someone else, which helps students use their emerging design skills to solve a problem for their new "client."

Project 4: Neighborhood Planning.  This project focuses on the collection of buildings, public spaces, and natural environment that make up neighborhoods.  Students are encouraged to understand the different types of buildings and spaces in neighborhoods and how those can complement and sometimes conflict with one another.  This project teaches students about perspective and scale, as well as exploring how different goals (housing, recreation, education or commerce) impact how the neighborhood is planned and developed.

Project 5: Solving Neighborhood Needs. This project takes the previous project one step further by encouraging students to do some research using their powers of observation (a walk around the neighborhood) and inquiry (asking friends, family members, and/or neighborhoods) to identify neighborhood needs and model a solution to solve those specific needs.

The program can be as brief as 4 weeks, but also can extend for the entire semester, depending on the extent to which the classroom teacher integrates the curriculum into each of the projects in the program. Our experience during the pilot indicated that the program would typically run 5 – 8 weeks.


The Center targets Philadelphia Public Schools where the student population is more than 50% Black/African American and/or Latinx, as well as more than 70% economically disadvantaged.  We work with each school, usually with the principal, to identify the teacher who would be an enthusiastic “early adopter” of the program.  This approach has been highly successful.   Our target grade level for this program is 4th through 8th grade because the curriculum was designed to be adapted to these grades and because our pilot was successful with positive teacher feedback in the 5th and 6th grade classrooms. 




Are you interested in bringing the Architecture + Design in Education program into your classroom? Please  with:

  • Your school name (priority given to Philadelphia public and charter schools)
  • Your classroom grade level
  • Contact information for both the classroom teacher and the school principal

Our staff and Committee chairs will coordinate a meeting with interested teachers and principals to determine how best to implement the program at your school.

Parents interested in having this program presented in their child's school should speak with their child's teacher(s) and ask them to reach out to us. 

Architects, Designers, + Engineers (+ College Students)
Are you interested in volunteering to teach architecture and design to K-12 students? Please fill out our Volunteer Form and be sure to select the "K-12 Education" option!

Philadelphia-based architecture, design, and engineering firms are invited to "adopt" a Philadelphia public school. Adoption means committing to providing at least two designers per semester (more volunteers welcomed!) in addition to sponsoring the cost of implementing the program in each classroom your employees volunteer in. Adoption allows for stronger relationships to develop between students, professional designers, and teachers, meaning more opportunities to make a lasting impact in a a school and its neighborhood. If your firm is interested in adopting a school, please fill out our Volunteer Form and mention the adoption in the "Optional Notes" section at the end of the form.

TEACHERS' MANUAL | 200 pages
Architecture in Education: A Resource of Imaginative Ideas and Tested Activities

The original STEAM teacher's guide for integrating architecture education into K-12 classrooms has been updated and revised for the first time! First published in 1986, this influential guide has served as the basis for the majority of K-12 architecture education programs around the United States (and many around the world). Full of exercises, projects, and advice on how to incorporate these fun, hands-on activities into your curriculum - whether you teach science, math, social studies, language arts, or art. This revised and updated spiral-bound edition (©2009) is a helpful addition to any modern teacher's library.

Purchase a spiral-bound print copy | $50 now only $20!

Or download the PDF version | $30 now FREE!