There are numerous exciting aspects of our team’s current work with Seneca Valley School District, outside Pittsburgh, but one that stands out to me is our chance to engage students in the design process.

In K-12 schools and on higher education campuses each year, there are innumerous design projects totaling millions in construction volume. Our team advocates for engaging students interested in architecture, engineering and construction in these projects to enhance their learning experience. To not involve them in these real-world learning experiences would be a missed opportunity for both the students and the future of our profession.

Fortunately, Seneca Valley is seizing the opportunity. They have selected 18 students with clear interest in the world of AEC to play a role in our current effort to create the district’s new elementary and middle school. These students attend our steering committee meetings, hear the same dialogue our designers and project leaders are sharing to move the project forward, and are encouraged to ask questions and engage. The students will also have the opportunity to visit our office for charettes and other key moments in the design process. (Above, a photo from a recent meeting with the students.)

By engaging current Seneca Valley students this way, we’re helping them determine if their interest in AEC is real, developing their skills and involving them in a design project in real time. It’s a kind of real-world learning that just can’t be simulated in a traditional classroom setting. That said, their classroom experience is also growing stronger as a result of this opportunity. Just recently, Seneca Valley’s Middle School Principal asked for a topographic map of the site that science and social studies teachers could use in their lesson plans. We will continue to see out similar synergies that help the students.

Furthermore, these students will play a role in helping shape Seneca Valley’s future. We’ve partnered with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh to create entirely new, research-based, leading-edge learning environments. This partnership creates synergy between K-12 design expertise with the museum’s deep understanding for creating successful hands-on children’s learning environments and experiences to advances learning. It will allow Seneca Valley to develop spaces that explore and understand what happens when schools are as fun, inspiring and engaging to be in as children’s museums.

We believe the project will make a remarkably positive impact for Seneca Valley and potentially serve as a model for how K-12 schools can better inspire and engage students and teachers regionally and nationally. That’s an exciting goal for the project, and we’re proud to have current Seneca Valley students helping push it forward.