The American Institute of Architects Richmond was founded in 1976.

Architecture Read-Alouds in a Richmond Area School Promote STEAM & Design Education

Do students have to wait until high school to be exposed to Architecture? How about starting in early grades? I recently had the joy of performing a Read-Aloud using books about architecture when participating at Crestview Elementary School’s Career Day. The books I used for this were Architecture by Neil Stevenson and Skyscrapers by Judith Dupre.

These books helped students develop literacy skills such as:

  • Content Prediction 
  • Letter Recognition
  • Beginning and Ending Sounds
  • Rhyming Word Recognition
  • Retelling
  • Summarizing
  • Reading Comprehension 

Besides these students gaining literacy skills, they also gained awareness of the importance of becoming stewards of the built and natural environments and getting involved in sustainable community solutions. It was rewarding to witness how students realized that in cities some buildings are important because of their history, sculptural shapes, use, location and even what they represent to the community around it. Some students expressed that instead of cities looking gray and dark, they should be green and sustainable!

Arnoldo Cardona reads books to students.
Arnaldo D. Cardona, AIA Richmond Allied, ASLA, is the new chair of the K-12 Out-reach Committee. Photo by Ms. Wachter

It was at this moment that I introduced how architects can help improve cities and make them sustainable. The term “architect” was new to some. After performing a word study strategy with the letters in the word “architect”, I told students that they can become architects and design spaces that will promote health, safety and welfare to benefit all society.  I shared that architects design homes, buildings, apartments, stores, skyscrapers, and many other spaces. I also shared that there are different specializations within architecture such as Interior Design, Landscape Architecture, Urban Design & Planning, Historic Preservation, Structural Design, and Real Estate Development among others. Students’ reactions were so rewarding. One mentioned that her father is an engineer and that he works with architects.

I was amazed to see how engaged these students were. It was very gratifying hearing their suggestions on how community members should get together to be part of the design process of built and natural projects. I shared with them that architects need to know a lot about Science (physics), Technology (computers and problem solving), Engineering (geography & structural concerns), Art (design) and Mathematics (measurements, geometry and scale). I also mentioned that architecture is a STEAM profession–a fun profession that improves the way we live by combining form and function in a harmonic way.

Thank you to the guidance counselor, Ms. Tera Koch, for kindly helping me coordinate visiting this lovely Henrico County school. Doing this read-aloud let me introduce concepts to students that helped them get a better understanding of what the architectural professions do. Furthermore, children gained literacy skills while at the same time gaining awareness of the importance of architects in the improvement of cities and communities. I hope that this experience motivates schools to have more “architectural educator” in schools so architects can help develop learning experiences that promote STEAM & Design Education.

For more about AIA Richmond K-12 Outreach initiatives, please contact

Arnaldo D. Cardona, AIA Richmond Allied, ASLA, is the new chair of the K-12 Outreach Committee. He served as a member of the ASLA’s Committee on Education and chair of the subcommittee on K-12 Education. He is also the author of two books: 

K-12 Architecture Education: An Interdisciplinary Curriculum Guide for Art, Design Educators, STEM and Vocational/Technical Teachers. (2022)

K-12 Landscape Architecture Education: An Interdisciplinary Curriculum Guide for Art, STEM and Vocational/Trade Educators. (2021)

Cardona holds pre-professional degrees in architecture and landscape architecture and masters in art education and special education. He holds K-12 licenses in the fields of Art, ESL and Special Education. Cardona has also taught courses in Studio in Landscape Architecture, Curriculum Design and Critical Thinking, Assessment in Special Education, and Seminar Courses, and has worked as a Student Supervisor of Art Education candidates at college level in VCUarts. Through this article he hopes to motivate other AIA Richmond, AIA-VA members to become advocates of K-12 Outreach initiatives and K-12 Education in Architecture initiatives.

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