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ArchiCamp: The Power of Collaboration in the K-12 Education Community

Front view of a proposal to bring natural elements to an urban setting, designed by Julia M. Kocik-Martorell, a 10-year-old student

By Arnaldo D. Cardona, ASLA

On April 20, 2021 I was invited by the Institute of Landscape Architects of Puerto Rico (IAPPR) to speak about the K-12 education in landscape architecture programs I implemented in New York City. This provided the opportunity to meet Victor Nieto, AIA, who represented the Architectural Foundation of Puerto Rico, a non-profit organization that promotes the appreciation of architecture, landscape architecture, and the design professions. I offered Victor my unconditional help in anything related to K-12 education that the foundation might need. I was pleased to find out that they were working on the coordination of their upcoming summer programs. 

ArchiCamp is a Summer Camp for students aged 7 to 16 years old, sponsored by the Architecture Foundation of Puerto Rico. It has been in existence for more than a decade. Despite the pandemic, they offered two virtual summer camp sessions -- one June 14-25 and the other July 5-16. The facilitators of ArchiCamp 2021 were Jomarly Cruz Galarza, AIT, who worked with 7- to 11-year-old students, and Suzette Lopez, AIT, who worked with 12- to 16- year-old students. The foundation and these two wonderful facilitators developed a rich curriculum that was full of challenging design activities. 

 Julia M Kocik Martorell

Aerial view of the natural elements proposal designed by Julia M. Kocik-Martorell, a 10-year-old student.

I noticed in the first session of the camp students were concerned about incorporating landscape elements. This provided me the opportunity to recommend some landscape architecture topics to the camp’s facilitators to see if they were able to incorporate them in ArchiCamp’s second session in July. Some of the topics I presented were: 

  1. Green Roofs 
  2. Sustainability 
  3. Rain Gardens 
  4. Urban Gardening 
  5. Park Design 
  6. Native Plants Garden 
  7. Pollinator’s Garden 
  8. Playgrounds 
  9. Water Features 
  10. Urban Landscape 

In addition, concepts on how vegetation can help control erosion, direct ventilation, solar exposure, and control views were also presented. As a volunteer educational consultant, it was a pleasure to be able to bring landscape architectural issues into this program. I hope that from now on the foundation will incorporate landscape architecture design activities in future ArchiCamps. 

On the last day’s presentation, I witnessed how some students incorporated landscape architectural concerns that made their projects more elaborate and complete. I believe in the power of collaboration and credit goes to the ArchiCamp facilitators for adopting these suggestions, especially to Victor Nieto for promoting a culture of collaboration and teamwork. 

Rosabella Matos Gonzales

Roof Garden designed by Rosabella Matos Gonzales, an 11-year-old student. 

As Puerto Ricans, the students and staff of ArchiCamp bring out the best of Puerto Rico. I hope that by sharing this experience many ASLA members will see the importance of networking with related professional organizations; and that although an organization such as the foundation is not represented by landscape architects or ASLA, we can still break ground and bring visibility to our profession. 

As a member of the ASLA Committee on Education and a landscape architect who has K-12 teaching licenses, I think we need to learn from organizations that have already developed K-12 educational programs instead of reinventing the wheel. I hope that, like with other professional organizations, we can realize that the best way to bring diversity and inclusion to our profession is through K-12 education programs in landscape architecture. 

Rosabella Matos Gonzales 2

A floor plan of a park presented by Rosabella Matos Gonzales at ArchiCamp. Frederick Law Olmsted’s Central Park was studied as an introductory activity. 

For more about ASLA’s Career Discover and Diversity initiatives, please visit Become A Landscape Architect and explore the ASLA Career Discovery and Diversity webpage

Arnaldo D. Cardona, ASLA, is a member of the ASLA’s Committee on Education and chair of the sub-committee on K-12 Education. Through this article he hopes to motivate other ASLA members to become advocates for the issues of career discovery, K-12 education, and community service. He believes that if ASLA members become more proactive and collaborate closely with ASLA’s Career Discovery initiatives, they will be creating the clients of the future and will guarantee colleges and universities the sustainability of their academic offerings.

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