Exposing K-12 Students to Landscape Architecture


I don’t have the numbers on this, but the phrase, “I want to be a landscape architect when I grow up” is fairly uncommon for those under the age of 18. As an educator for 6+ years, I have a little bit of experience with this. In my middle and high school programs I worked to increase student interest in STEM fields by inviting all types of professionals into the classroom to talk about their work. My students and I had never heard of landscape architecture, but luckily a landscape architect found her way into my classroom via an engineer friend. After she shared her passion for the field and introduced the types of projects she worked on, many of my students were hooked. And as it turned out, so was I. My students continued to talk about landscape architecture throughout the year. As for me, years later I made the career switch and went back to school for landscape architecture.   

It turns out that exposure matters and landscape architecture should not be kept a secret. We need outreach to face the challenges of low college enrollment in landscape architecture programs, to address the lack of diversity in the profession, and to buffer us against policy decisions that discredit the profession. 

WASLA has been working very hard on advocacy and public awareness to address these problems, and I am excited to be a part of the K-12 outreach committee to help spread the word even further down the line. We are hoping to cultivate this understanding at an earlier age by exposing K-12 students to the field via school visits, field trips and other events throughout the year. As part of World Landscape Architecture month in April, we piloted a program in partnership with UWASLA students to introduce middle and high school age students to landscape architecture through afterschool visits and hands-on activities. By leveraging the mentorship relationship at UW and by partnering with pre-existing school programs, we are able to combine successful programs and get our visits up and running in no time. For this pilot we partnered with Techbridge Girls, a STEM education non-profit working with the Highline School District. They focus on increasing girls’ participation in STEM careers through hands-on activities and role model participation, and were a wonderful first partner for this outreach program.

The session began with a simple question - What is landscape architecture? Not a single student in the classroom (teachers included) had heard of it. Through a short presentation and a plan drawing activity, the students started taking matters into their own hands. How would we improve our local park or school campus? Can we put trees in this area to increase the shade available to school athletes? What about creating a mound to get a better view of the nearby forested park? What about putting a canopy walk amongst the trees of that park to increase awareness of vegetation and wildlife? The conversations and drawing continued as volunteers walked around the classroom, talking with students about their ideas and fielding their questions about what our work is like and how we chose to do what we do. Not only is this dialogue beneficial for the students, but in talking with the volunteers we found they walked away with a renewed pride in landscape architecture. By the end of the sessions, 100% of the participants now knew about and had experience with landscape architecture. Additionally, the teachers were excited about using the activity and presentations in other classes to expose even more students to the field. 

We look forward to building on this momentum for the 2017/2018 school year. Look for a larger roll-out of the WASLA/UWASLA mentorship outreach program in the fall. In the meantime, there are many other ways to get involved in K-12 outreach. Check in with your local schools/afterschool programs, Boys and Girls clubs, YMCAs and others to see how you can get involved. The ASLA national website has many materials to help with outreach. Here are some resources to help you on your way: 

Public awareness: https://www.asla.org/campaign.aspx

ASLA Tools for Teachers: https://www.asla.org/toolsforteachers.aspx

Techbridge: http://www.techbridgegirls.org 

Contact [email protected] to see how else you can get involved! 

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