New Mexico schools are last in the nation for academic achievement, but a professor at The University of New Mexico is working to change that, using architecture.

UNM School of Architecture & Planning Regents (SA&P) Professor Emerita Anne Taylor is partnering with the Albuquerque chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to boost academic achievement at local schools. She is working alongside Stephen Williams, president of AIA.

Valuable lessons
Teamwork & happiness, essention for solving the paper bridge problem.

The duo formed a new partnership between the Albuquerque Chapter of the AIA and the School Zone Institute, a national imitative to engage children in architecture training. Taylor, who is president of the local School Zone Institute branch, organized a design education workshop for volunteer architects and teachers from Mark Twain Elementary in Albuquerque.

“This workshop prepared 15 architects to teach integrated design thinking for grades 2-5 this spring,” Taylor said. “They worked with teachers to help students use design thinking, drawing and model building with various ‘real life’ projects.”

"Students across America are crying out to make their education ‘real.'" - Anne Taylor, UNM School of Architecture & Planning

The architects went into the school every other Friday for 10 weeks to teach schematic drawing, architectural conventions and model building. Now the project is being put on display so others can see the benefits of teaching architecture to young students.

The student’s work will be on exhibition Sunday, May 21 from 2-4 p.m. in George Pearl Hall on UNM Main Campus. Light refreshments will be served.

“Students across America are crying out to make their education ‘real,’” Taylor said. “We have found they love visual thinking and creative problem solving by designing parks, new buildings for their neighborhoods.”

Engaged learning

A national leader also understands Taylor’s passion for engaging younger students. Former First Lady Michelle Obama recently delivered the keynote address in Florida; and said students need access to more information about architecture and design.  

Teachers show architects how to integrate design thinking with Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Architecture and Math (STEAM). Using a $1,500 contract from APS, Taylor was able to boost commitment from the architects.

“They normally charge around $250 per hour. With the time they dedicated to this project, they provided nearly $50,000 in in-kind funding,” she said.

Taylor submitted a proposal to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for funding to complete curriculum development.

“We were notified that are receiving $4,500. This is instrumental funding in helping us bring architects and educators together to move this initiative forward,” Taylor said, adding that the educational model she developed has been widely accepted globally.

This year, the second at Mark Twain, the goal is to engage the community around the school. Together, the teachers, students and architects are addressing issues such as old strip malls, design bicycle trails and ways to improve the school’s playground by transforming it into a park.

The Mark Twain and Fair Heights Neighborhood Associations will work with this project next school year to involve students in their neighborhood improvement plan.

“Besides promoting creative problem solving in our schools, School Zone Institute and the AIA are helping children to become aware of the built, natural and cultural environment. They are also educating a future generation to ‘public awareness of good design’, a consistent mission of the national American Institute of Architects,” Taylor said.

Her long-term passion is to for a design center where teachers globally can be educated to bring this into the classroom.

“This portends a new and integrated creative delivery system for education in New Mexico and elsewhere,” she said.

Contact Anne Taylor for further information: 505-350-8035