Thomas Jefferson Career Day – “Learning about Architecture”


Overview of event

Four FAR volunteers made an awesome team and provided a good mix of personalities (as well as a broad variety of shareable experiences) to handle large groups and provide one‐on‐one attention to small groups.

  • The majority of the children were fully engaged in the Q&A as well as the tower building exercise.
  • Props were helpful visual aids during the introduction. (Kudos to Alex Elmore for creating a short, impromptu lesson on Architecture, structure, and loads that was relatable to the kids.)
  • Groups of two work very well with the Tower activity. Groups of more than two may prove to be problematic when dealing with fragile materials.


FAR volunteers used our Tower & Geometry templates for this outreach and adapted their presentations to address the students’ preferences. They also cleverly adjusted to certain technical and time constraints that arose, achieving a very successful outreach event, introducing middle schoolers to our profession. They worked with about 15 students per class in six 30 minute slots—a total of about 90 middle school students.

Lessons Learned

  • Having a quick prop or a diagram model to interact with worked well. It was something more engaging and easier to present than a Power Point.
  • The Power Point could be eliminated next time. The kids were enjoying themselves more and got a lot farther on their structures when we didn’t do the Power Point presentation. It might be worth having candy or an incentive for students to build the tallest tower. A prize pushed them to work harder.
  • The tower activity worked a lot better for all ages. The geometry exercise was too “basic” for them. They just traced the images and didn’t feel pushed to really work. The tower definitely engaged them in conversations and in thinking through ideas of structure.
  • Have paper/pens available for students who would like to sketch out their design ideas for the team tower.
  • Have clearly defined talking points and learning outcomes (in addition to the templates/ outline).
  • Have .PDF and .PPT versions of the presentation ready (in case oftechnology/software issues).
  • Have a clock/timer handy (some students were very inquisitive about how much time they had to get the tower built).
  • Consider bringing extra marshmallows for the kids to eat! (limit one per student).
  • Consider having awards‐ (ribbons/pins/paper certificate) for Tallest Tower, Sturdiest Tower, Most Unique Design, Fastest Construction, Best Teamwork.
  • Students were very enthusiastic about participating and seemed to be a little on the competitive side.


AIA FAR Outreach Team: Alex Elmore of JRS, Camessia Johnson of BCT, Kendra Jenifer of Morgan SAP & Zevi Thomas, AIA Baltimore Outreach Coordinator

Location: Thomas Jefferson Elementary/Middle School
Time: 11:30am‐2:30pm Grade Levels: 5th‐8th Place: One Classroom

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