Full STEAM Ahead

Allison Powell and Shannon Dowling participated in the Full STEAM Ahead Conference, a day-long series of workshops dedicated to inspiring middle-school aged girls to learn more about local careers in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. Allison and Shannon joined approximately forty other professionals as they led students through interactive hour-long workshops on a menu of topics in the STEAM field. The event was held at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School (MLK), which was designed by BCWH and opened two years ago as Richmond’s first newly constructed middle school in over a decade. Allison and Shannon used the design of MLK as a spring-board for their workshop, titled ““The Making of MLK Middle: From Design Concept to Completion”

MLK Design

During each hour-long session with BCWH, rising 5th-9th grade girls were introduced to the art, design, and geometry of architecture through a hands-on analysis of MLK. We walked the group through its design process – from speaking with clients and stakeholders to programming a building, to placing a building on a site in a way that it blends into the scale and texture of the community, to incorporating materials and design details that will give students a sense of belonging and ownership of the environment. We then led a tour around the school, pointing out details, design ideas, and explaining to the girls what happens behind the walls and above the ceilings. The girls then had a chance to put their new knowledge to task by working with a kit of parts to design their own schools. Many of the schools were similar to MLK in that they kept the shared community components of the building together and housed students in wings according to grade level. The students were excited to incorporate courtyards, lounges, and break-out spaces into their plans to give their designs breathing room and to give students a place to collaborate and learn outside of the classroom environment.

STEAM workshop

The girls walked away from this workshop with a good knowledge base about the steps of the design process that go into a project such as a new middle school. They reaffirmed our beliefs that students need spaces for both quiet reflective activity and collaborative, project based environments that are not tied to a traditional classroom. The twenty girls that we worked with were thoughtful, inquisitive thinkers and diligent workers. We loved our day spent with the future female leaders of our community and look forward to seeing the positive impact they themselves make on Richmond in the near future!

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