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Bringing Design to Schools Across Oregon

At AFO, we are passionate about the future of the built environment in Oregon. The best way to ensure we have great places to live, work and play is to ensure that future generations are exposed to the importance of design and creative problem solving.

The Architects in Schools (AiS) program aims to do just that: introduce the youngest Oregonians to the power and possibilities of design with the end goal of creating lifelong learners and critical thinkers who have a voice in their community. This is AFO’s longest running program.

Administered by AFO since 2003, the program has grown from annually serving 800 students to currently serving more than 5,400 third through fifth grade students in the Portland metropolitan area, Central Oregon, Salem, Eugene and Southern Oregon.

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 while addressing Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards.

Student Spotlight

4th grade Creative Science School

“My favorite part was working with my classmates to build a community.”

How it Works

AFO recruits professionals from the building community (architects, contractors, engineers and more) and matches them with Oregon teachers in their geographic area. Together, they choose lessons from our curriculum guide and create a unique and engaging experience that introduces third through fifth grade students to the basic principles of design over a six-week residency.

AFO provides a training workshop, staff support, public exhibition of final projects and a copy of Architecture as a Basic Curriculum Builder which includes:

  • Simple drawing techniques that quickly improves students’ abilities and their confidence
  • A pictorial survey of architectural periods and styles that coincide with studies of NW 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?”
  • and much more!


Participating Schools

Participating Design & Building Professionals

View the list here.

At the end of Architects in Schools classroom residencies, many schools participate in an exhibit of student work, showcasing the projects they completed through the program. We invite you to come celebrate the hard work of our AiS participants at an exhibit in your area. All exhibits are free and open to the public, unless noted otherwise.

Central Oregon Exhibit Reception
Friday, May 1
Franklin Crossing, Bend

Portland Exhibit Receptions
Thursday, May 7
BRIC Architecture, Pioneer Place, Opsis Architecture, SRG Partnership, and more locations TBA

Saturday, May 16
Participating students and one guardian receive free admission. View OMSI pricing here.

Southern Oregon Exhibit Reception
Saturday, May 9
ScienceWorks Museum, Ashland
Participating students and guardians receive free admission. View ScienceWorks pricing here.

Salem Exhibit Reception
Wednesday, June 3
Salem Keizer Education Foundation

Eugene Exhibit Reception
Friday, June 5
UO Design Launch Lab

Download “A Special Structure for a Special Client,” one of more than 25 lesson plans in the curriculum guide



AiS in the news: “Fourth-graders pitch ideas for Broadway Corridor,” DJC Oregon

Design/Building Professional Application & Resources

AFO encourages participation by design and building professionals including architects, engineers, contractors, interior designers, city planners, architecture historians, architecture students and more. Design/building professionals volunteer around twenty hours total, twelve of those hours spent in the classroom over a six-week period and eight hours of planning time.

Participating architecture students assist the design/building professional in the classroom and work with the team to design, plan and present a residency.

  • Collaborate with the classroom teacher(s) to develop and teach a program that uses architecture and design to enhance the classroom curriculum (the AiS curriculum is not the only base to use for your classroom goals — work with the teachers to decide what is best). Before you begin your residency, each team will be asked to hand in a residency plan.
  • Be on time. Teachers keep very strict schedules, so a loss of 5 minutes can mean the difference between a successful classroom visit and frustration.
  • Please make every effort to keep to your scheduled visits. It is often quite difficult for schools to rearrange schedules once they have been set.
  • Your time is short with the students. Prep all materials agreed on with the teacher. Ask the teacher to make copies, pass out materials beforehand and have assignments for students who finish early.
  • Leave students in a frame of mind to return to classroom work. Teachers appreciate guests who do not leave them with restless or unruly students.
  • Try to call students by name. Ask the teacher to have them wear name tags for your visit.
  • Move about the classroom: don’t stay in one spot the entire lesson. Share your enthusiasm about design and make it personal.
  • Communicate all problems, questions and concerns with AFO staff immediately and read all email communication sent about AiS carefully.

2019-20 Program Information

Current participants: access the Participant Handbook for the curriculum guide and more resources

The application process is now closed. Sign up for the AiS newsletter to be informed when applications go live for the 2020-21 season

Teacher Application & Resources

Architects in Schools is offered free-of-charge to third through fifth grade classrooms in the Portland metropolitan area, Salem, Eugene, Bend, Medford and Ashland. Priority is given to schools with no more than two classes participating in the same grade level per school per academic year. If more than two teachers need to participate together, please contact AFO staff prior to applying.

  • Partner and collaborate with the design/building professional(s) to develop and teach a program that enhances your classroom curriculum. Before you begin your residency, each team will be asked to hand in a residency plan.
  • Check your team’s proposed residency schedule for any conflicts with other school events (half days, assemblies, etc.) and notify the design/building professional(s) of any conflicts well in advance.
  • You are responsible for facilitating and assisting with planned activities during the residency sessions and for conducting follow-up and preparatory activities related to the project between the scheduled visits.
  • The design/building professional(s) will also rely on you to be in charge of classroom discipline and to help with classroom management issues such as grouping students for cooperative work and maintaining a good classroom atmosphere. You must be in the classroom with the design/building professional at all times. The teacher listed on the application must be the teacher present for residency sessions (no substitutes) unless prior approval has been given by AFO staff and the design/building professional.
  • Please introduce your resident design/building professional(s) to your supervisor and/or principal and alert the front desk and main office on the days of their visits.
  • Have students wear name tags during the design/building professional’s visits.
  • Communicate all problems, questions and concerns with AFO staff immediately and read all email communication sent about AiS carefully.

2019-20 Program Information

Current participants: access the Participant Handbook for the curriculum guide and more resources

The application process is now closed. Sign up for the AiS newsletter to be informed when applications go live for the 2020-21 season

Student & Parent Resources

Third through fifth grade students participating in Architects in Schools gain an understanding of the designed and built environment through lessons taught by architects, engineers, contractors and other design professionals. The ‘hands-on’ approach of the program enhances learning in multiple subjects and helps students gain a better sense of how school relates to the ‘real world.’ AFO’s goal is to use design and the design process as a tool to help students develop skills that improve team work, observations and creative problem solving, while connecting students back to the communities in which they live, learn and play.

Arquitectos en las Escuelas – Información de los Padres

Print at Home Activities:

Portland Architecture Crossword Puzzle

What Do You See Through Your Telescope?


Web Resources:

archKIDtecture – explains math, science and visual arts concepts through the medium of architecture

CUBE, Center for Understanding the Built Environment – provides lessons and activities on intentional design, community outreach, and making a difference in our built environment

Great Buildings Collection – database of selected classics of world architecture and designers


Free Architecture/Design Lessons:

Discovery Education: Reaching New Heights

Scholastic: Engineering a Bridge

PBS: Building Big

Teach Engineering: Hands-on Activity: Design a Net-Zero Energy Classroom

Home activity: What Do You See Through Your Telescope?

Contributors & Collaborators

Bloomfield Family Foundation | The Carpenter Foundation | ESCO Foundation | Herbert A. Templeton Foundation | Juan Young Trust | MDU Resources Foundation | Oregon Arts Commission | The Oregon Community Foundation | Regional Arts & Culture Council | Women’s Architectural League | AFO Corporate & Individual Members

In-Kind donors:
AIA Southern Oregon | AIA Southwest Oregon | Bend-LaPine School District | Frank Lloyd Wright Gordon House | KPFF Consulting Engineers | Kelley Imaging | OMSI | PSU School of Architecture | Salem Keizer Education Foundation | Sandy Library | UO College of Design


Kim Ruthardt Knowles
Associate Director, Architects in Schools

Candice Agahan
Education Programming Associate