Since 2016, DCI employees of all disciplines have worked with teachers at PPPCS to design and implement an introduction-to-architecture course for select fifth graders. Through landscape, planning, programming, and presentation, practitioners at Design Collective have led a once-a-month engagement with about 30 students, delivering a multi-disciplinary course through experiential learning, culminating in an on-site field trip to the downtown Baltimore office. This year, 18 DCI employees have signed up to teach - coordinating class sessions on architecture, landscape, planning, and interiors. Students are pushed to see their neighborhood differently, changing reference points from video games and cellphones to eyes on the street and neighborhood needs. In turn, the students never cease to surprise them. Often tasked with a project like, “program a recreation center,” students incorporate real-time needs into their end results, often allowing DCI professionals to glimpse inside the actual needs and wants of the neighborhood resident, with youth-driven brainstorms, like a food bank or a free library.
Lonna and Emily, Co-Chairs of the DCI program and AIA Baltimore’s Future Architects Resources committee, have worked hard to create standardization for the program. “It’s easily adaptable for other firms and schools,” Lonna states, citing that she and Emily have not only created an onboarding PDF, but are eager and willing to go into other architecture firms and hold brown-bag lunches or information sessions on the program. While DCI allows the hours spent volunteering to be billable, indicating how valuable Firm leadership feels this work is to The City and employee development, Lonna and Emily realize not all firms have this luxury. “There are certainly ways to modify the program,” Emily says, “to allow other firms to continue this education on a scale that works for them.” While the program certainly builds strength within Baltimore, forging a relationship between the professional service industry and the educational world, DCI also finds the program brings unlikely members of the Design Collective family together, getting to know one another through outreach. Through this pipeline of camaraderie and shared professional interest, DCI employees are opening young eyes to new opportunities while finding the joy that comes from sharing their professional passions.
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