Teacher team externship in architecture and design with Earl Swensson Associates
Strong relationships with local academy partners is the key to building effective business engagement in our high schools. The Academies of Nashville provide students with meaningful, hands-on learning in context through unique partnerships with local businesses, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. The Teacher Team Externship Program gives teachers an opportunity to have a real-world professional experience at a host organization to develop a project-based curriculum that gives students industry exposure and applied learning.
In June 2012, teachers from Glencliff High School’s Academy of Environmental and Urban Planning participated in a teacher team externship with Earl Swensson Associates (ESa), an architecture and design firm based in Nashville. Tara Myers, a Senior Design Manager, hosted the teachers during their time at ESa. She guided the teacher team through the complex process of taking a project through the various stages of development, from proposal and concept planning all the way to construction. According to Myers, “We gave a brief overview of the path/process a project follows as it moves through our office. The overall design process and how our staff works in teams throughout this process was a focus in all of the sessions that followed.”
During the three-day teacher team externship, the educators learned about ESa’s marketing and business development by focusing on the process the firm uses to respond to Requests for Proposals. They also learned about how a large team of project managers and designers work together to transform an initial design concept into a fully-rendered three-dimensional model using design software such as CAD. The team also enjoyed a visit to Belmont University to see three of ESa’s current projects, all of which are at different phases of construction. This visit allowed the teacher team to see how the design and planning translates into real-world construction.
Myers believes that the experience of inviting teachers into ESa’s offices will have a positive impact on the firm’s relationship to Glencliff High School and will energize classroom instruction. She noted how this interaction will improve ESa’s ability to support its partner Academy: “With the greater understanding of the roles that the teachers play and the challenges they face, we are going to be better equipped to help them throughout the year. One of the teachers told us that spending three days together helped him get to know our employees as people and he will now feel more comfortable calling on us when he has a specific need in his classroom. That discover alone was a huge benefit of the externship process.”
Myers also said that she hopes the teachers in the Academy of Environmental and Urban Planning will work hard to provide more opportunities for collaboration and critical thinking in their classrooms because these skills are fundamental in a collaborative workplace like ESa. She also wants to students to realize that they need to take command of their future: “I want them to know that the future is what they make of it and that they have more ability to craft and influence it than they might realize. There are resources in place to help them, they just need to do their part and take advantage of these opportunities. They also need to know that they have a great group of teachers and supporters in the community who want them to succeed.”
Without a doubt, ESa is one organization full of supporters committed to giving Nashville’s high school students the best possible chance of personal and professional success.