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Learning Initiatives


Learning Initiatives at the Chicago Architecture Biennial provide free educational programming to learners of all ages as a way to promote active exploration of the built environment and empower audiences to view architecture and design as tools for change. We aim to:
–Facilitate meaningful and ongoing engagements with schools, community organizations, universities, museums, and other cultural institutions
–Encourage connections between Biennial content and local topics and communities
–Reach students from populations historically underrepresented in architecture; provide opportunities for co-learning between professionals and the general public; and engage with learners of all ages and from a diversity of perspectives 

Join our mailing list to stay in touch about learning opportunities that may be of interest to you!

Signature Education Partner

The Chicago Architecture Center has been the Biennial's Signature Education Partner since 2015. Through this partnership, we are able to broaden the reach of our educational programming for youth and families and support educators in exploring the Biennial, both through visits to the Chicago Cultural Center and in their classrooms.

Visit the Chicago Architecture Center website for information.

For Teachers

Learning Activities

Educator materials aligned with Common Core Standards for grades 4-12 were created in partnership with the Chicago Architecture Biennial. After the close of the 2019 edition, these resources cotninue to provide ways to engage with the important topics addressed in the Biennial. available at the Biennial and for free download.

Educator Toolkit
Includes highlights of contributor projects, discussion prompts, and a glossary of terms.

Indigenous Architecture Activity

Historic Preservation Activity

Documenting the Everyday Activity

Teacher Trainings

Together, the Chicago Architecture Center and the Biennial conducted professional development trainings for educators from local schools, universities, and community organizations to familiarize participants with how to use the Biennial to support teaching and learning.

Guided Field Trips

Chicago Architecture Center Education Guides led 90-minute interactive tours of the Biennial’s primary exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center each Tuesday through Friday for the duration of the Biennial. Free transportation by bus was available to qualifying schools.

Self-Guided Visit

Groups wishing to attend the Biennial for a self-guided visit were greeted by a Biennial representative for an introduction to the space and the exhibit. Groups were supplied with educational materials and a recommended tour route prior to their visit.

For Students

Community Festival Days

Two community festival days at Navy Pier and Garfield Park Conservatory encouraged families to visit the Biennial and introduced architecture and design themes to 489 children and family members through age-appropriate activities.

Youth Studios

Youth Studios provide an opportunity for young people across Chicago to engage with the themes and topics of the Biennial through hands-on exploration. During 11 youth studios held at 9 community sites across the city, 171 teens conducted active research, had discussions, and developed creative solutions as they made connections between their own lives and the global topics of the Biennial.
  • 2019 Youth Studio Partners:
  • archKIDecture
  • The Available City
  • BUILD, Inc. with LBBA Labs
  • Bustle 5K
  • Chicago Arts Partnership in Education
  • Chicago Mobile Makers
  • Design Museum of Chicago with Norman Teague
  • NEXT.cc Designopedia
  • Plant Chicago
  • Space Lab with DLR Group
  • Territory NFP

Young People's Guide

An illustrated Young People’s Guide provided an accessible overview of the Biennial and select projects along with discussion prompts and activities. Throughout the course of the Biennial, Young People’s Guides were distributed to youth and family audiences at the Chicago Cultural Center. Featuring illustrations by Molly Anne Bishop. View the guide in English or Spanish.

BP Student Ideas Competition

The Fall 2019 BP Student Ideas Competition ran from September 19 through December 6. The competition, presented in partnership with the Chicago Architecture Center, asked young people to design sites for community dialogue. For more information on the competition and to see winning projects, visit our competition page.

Teen Ambassador Program

The Chicago Architecture Center recruited and trained 20 teens from 18 high schools to serve as interpretive tour guides onsite at the Chicago Cultural Center during weekends and school holidays. Teen ambassadors also met two days a week after school to develop professional skills and work on collaborative design projects.

Youth and Family Programs

Each Saturday the Biennial provided drop-in activities for families at the Chicago Cultural Center. 956 visitors enjoyed 13 youth and family programs including model-making activities, scavenger hunts, holiday gingerbread workshops, family read-alouds, and more. Family program partners included archKIDecture, Chicago Mobile Makers, and SOILED Magazine.

Pin-Up Wall

The Learning Initiatives pin-up wall offered a temporary exhibition space for educational content and featured exhibitions including winning submissions to the BP Student Ideas Competition and content produced in Youth Studios. Read more for a complete list of projects.

October 7 - October 27
BP Student Ideas Competition
Winning submissions from our spring 2019 student competition responding to the question: How would you transform a vacant or underused space in your community?  

October 28 - November 10
Selections from the newest edition of SOILED Magazine Onceuponascrapers, a collection of illustrated architectural children’s stories akin to “picture books” that narrate contemporary ideas about architecture and the built environment.

November 11 - November 24
Our Great Great Wall
"Our wall does not divide but congregates by recognizing diversity as the building blocks of beauty."
Illinois Institute of Technology, College of Architecture
Project Lead: Jennifer Park
Student team: Arshia Dizna, Caleb Schemmel, Hiram Torres, Kaitlin Weishaar, Marcela Teixeira Pereira, Semra Defterali, Seniha Ozturk, Yun Woo Kim

November 25 - December 7
A Day in the Studio with Territory
Territory presents outcomes from their Biennial Youth Studio program A Day in the Studio with Territory. During this workshop, Territory shared the design process they use to re-imagine and re-claim public spaces in our communities. This teen-led immersive workshop presented new tools and insights into community engaged, youth-led design.

December 8 - December 15
The Available City - CCA Academy PermaPark
Outcomes from a four part workshop with CCA Academy students that enabled them to think about designs for a gathering space that the students will help construct in the Spring. The workshops are part of the larger The Available City - North Lawndale project, an exposition planned for July-October 2020 that examines the role that collective space can have in the city today.

December 16 - December 21
A City Runs Through It
This pin-up is the outcome of the A City Runs Through It Biennial Youth Studio hosted by NEXT.cc. Looking to the future, students imagined an ecopolis that coexists with larger earth, energy, water and food systems in a circular metabolism.

December 22 - January 5
BP Student Ideas Competition
Winning submissions from our fall 2019 student competition responding to the promp: Design a safe community space where young people can share ideas and take action on a local or global issue.