When HDR Healthcare Principal Tom Onnen and I were asked to speak to a group of eighth-graders at Rancho Pico Junior High in Stevenson Ranch, California last month, my initial goal was to get out of there alive! I used to get beat up when I was in middle school, so visions of unruly, bad-mannered kids made me feel anxious about our visit.
Boy was I wrong! They were the nicest kids. They were wonderfully attentive and interested. There was no yawning or talking, and three-fourths of their hands went up every time we asked a question.
Our presentation took place on the school’s annual Career Day, and our assignment was to provide an overview of the architecture field.
For the first activity, Tom’s “prop” was a block of wood with a single nail hammered into it. He had six other same-sized nails with him, and he asked for a volunteer to balance those nails on the head of the nail in the block of wood. A student tried and failed until Tom produced a set of instructions — and then she balanced them perfectly. He then explained that what may seem impossible such as building a building from the ground up is simple when you break it down into small parts.
Next I showed the students a large architectural model and explained how we use models to help clients understand how to fit different components into what we’re designing. “Instead of nails, we’re working with buildings—big buildings,” I told them.
Then we talked about the exciting opportunities we have to learn about our clients’ businesses. We have to become knowledgeable about hospitals, for example, before we can design them. The students named the spaces in a hospital, and they knew them all — all of the departments even! Then we worked together to figure out which spaces needed to be next to each other. It was like Medical Planning 101. These kids are ready for hire!
We concluded our presentation by asking the students to name some buildings that they find interesting, and Eric sketched as they talked. We must have gone through a dozen buildings! We used the sketches to discuss the technical sides of architecture. About 10 of the students hung out after our presentation to talk more about the buildings and ask questions. They were really interested, which was so rewarding.
I’m hoping that this provided a spark for students who hadn’t thought of architecture as a career before. That’s all it takes sometimes.
Student Priscilla Pope created this impressive video of the presentation. Check it out!: https://youtu.be/GA0lOyhG0N8
(Permission to publish the video obtained from parent Merry Pope, teacher Jodi Ferry, and the William S. Hart Union High School District.)