Architects in Schools

This statewide six-week residency program for elementary schools is afo’s longest-running, signature program. Practicing architects and other design professionals volunteer to partner with classroom teachers. In 2003, afo assumed administration of the program from the Regional Arts & Culture Council. Under afo, the program has grown from annually serving 800 to more than 4,500 students in the Portland metropolitan area, Central Oregon, Salem, Eugene, Medford and Ashland. Our updated curriculum guide supports Oregon’s learning goals and includes environmental sustainability content.

Inspired by the first Earth Day, a team led by Oregon architect Marjorie Wintermute FAIA created the program over a five-year period with the goal of developing awareness and understanding of the designed and built environment and our responsibility for it among third through fifth grade students. Architects in Schools delivers arts programming, environmental understanding, awareness of cultural links to history, understanding responsibility to the natural environment, career awareness, and communication skills – all through the principles and practices of architecture and design. It addresses both understanding of design’s potential for achieving excellence in the continued development of our state, and standard-rich content for increasingly stretched teachers and systems in Oregon’s schools.

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Application information for the 2018-19 Architects in Schools season will be available August, 2018.

If you are looking to apply as a design professional for the 2017-18 season, please contact Candice at 

Questions? Please contact Candice Agahan at 503-542-3823 or

How It Works
Architects in Schools pairs practicing design professionals with classroom teachers to create and implement customized curricula for third through fifth grade students over a six-week residency. Each spring for more than 30 years, architects have teamed with teachers in schools from Gearhart to Gresham and from Hood River to Bend, Salem and Eugene. afo provides a training workshop, staff support, public exhibition of final projects, and a copy of ARCHITECTURE AS A BASIC CURRICULUM BUILDER, which includes:

  • A simple drawing technique that quickly improves students’ abilities and their confidence
  • A pictorial survey of architectural periods and styles that coincide with studies of Native Americans, Pioneers, Victorians, and several distinct periods in the 20th century
  • Lessons for measuring and designing floor plans
  • Structured activities around questions, like: “What makes structures stand up?” “What will cities look like 25 years from now?” and, “What is Green Building?”
  • One of the students’ favorite lessons, “A Special Structure for a Special Client,” which asks students to program and design homes for clients such as an anteater who likes to have friends in for ice cream cones, an intelligent crocodile who reads a lot of books and invents things, and a strong gorilla who likes to keep in shape.

With several updates along the way, ARCHITECTURE AS A BASIC CURRICULUM BUILDER, the program’s curricular guide, is just as vital and relevant today as it was when first initiated three decades ago. Teachers can click below for a PDF of “A Special Structure for a Special Client,” one of more than 25 lesson plans in the curriculum guide,

Download “A Special Structure for a Special Client” lesson plan

Each of the activities in the curriculum guide details:

  • Existing classroom curricula that can be taught with the activity
  • The time required and any prior lessons required
  • Materials needed
  • Learning objectives
  • Roles for both the architect and the teacher and suggested dialogue for presenting the activity worksheets

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