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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 returns in 2019 as the Biennial's Signature Education Partner, a role it has held in the previous two editions. 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 on 2019 programming.

For Teachers

Guided Field Trips

Chicago Architecture Center Education Guides lead 90-minute interactive tours of the Biennial’s primary exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center. Field trips for grades 5-12 run Tuesday to Friday each week in October, November, and December. Free transportation by bus is available to qualifying schools.

Request a guided field trip here!

Self-Guided Visit

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

Sign up for a self-guided visit here!

Educator Toolkit

Standards-aligned educator tools include an Educator Guide with highlights of contributor projects, discussion prompts, and a glossary of terms as well as Classroom Activities which link classroom learning to Biennial topics. Educator tools encouraging active exploration of the Biennial exhibition and themes both at the Chicago Cultural Center and in your classroom.

Educator Guide

Classroom Activities
Historic Preservation
Indigenous Architecture
Documenting the Everyday

School Partners Program

The Biennial holds ongoing partnerships with a select number of Chicago Public Schools high schools in an effort to bring architecture and design learning to schools without these programs. School Partners engage with the Biennial through co-creating learning opportunities, visits to the Biennial and partner sites, and entering competitions.

If you think your school would be a good fit for the program, please email education@chicagoarchitecturebiennial.org

For Students

Youth Studios

Youth Studios are a key component of Learning Initiatives at the Chicago Architecture Biennial. These three-hour sessions provide an opportunity for students across Chicago to engage with the themes and topics of the Biennial through collaborative exploration, conversation, and creative production. The studios are a space for young people to work alongside professionals and their peers as they create connections between local topics and experiences and the global conversations at the heart of the Biennial.
  • Youth Studios will serve high school students across the city between July and December 2019. Each studio is hosted by a community partner, expanding the Biennial's reach into neighborhoods across Chicago.
  • 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

The Young People's Guide provides a hands-on tool for exploring the themes and projects of the Biennial through accessible language and activities for youth and family audiences. The Young People's Guide is available in both English and Spanish on-site in the Biennial x Lendlease Discovery & Learning Lab and at the links below. Featuring illustrations by Molly Anne Bishop.   

English  |  Spanish

BP Student Ideas Competition

The Fall 2019 BP Student Ideas Competition runs September 19 through November 22. The competition, presented in partnership with the Chicago Architecture Center, asks young people to design sites for community dialogue. The competition is free to enter and open to middle and high school students across Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. 

For a complete calendar and submission details, please visit bpcompetition.org

Teen Ambassador Program

Through the Chicago Architecture Center Teen Ambassador Program, 30 Chicago Public Schools high school students share their interpretations of the exhibits and their personal narratives with visitors to the Chicago Architecture Biennial on weekends and school holidays. Teen Ambassadors encourage other young Chicagoans to become civically-engaged and earn service-learning hours towards high school graduation requirements.

Youth and Family Programs

Drop-in creative activites for the whole family take place every Saturday for the duration of the Biennial. Stop by the Biennial x Lendlease Discovery & Learning Lab to explore the themes of the 2019 edition through hands-on workshops. Read more for upcoming programs.
Fun with archKIDecture Family Drop-In Activity
Saturday, November 30 | 12:00 - 3:00 P.M.

Kid-Friendly Biennial Tour
Saturday, November 30 | 11:00 A.M. - 12:00 PM
Saturday, December 14 | 11:00 A.M. - 12:00 PM 

Architecture and Memory with Chicago Mobile Makers Family Drop-In Activity
Saturday, December 7 | 12:00 - 3:00 P.M.

Gingerbread Architecture Family Drop-In Activity

Sunday, December 8 | 12:00 - 3:00 P.M.
Saturday, December 21 | 12:00 - 3:00 P.M.

Pin-Up Wall

The Learning Initiatives pin-up wall is a temporary exhibition space for educational content from the Biennial and our partners, including winning entries from the BP Student Ideas Competition and outcomes from our Youth Studios program. Read more for an installation calendar.

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 Pin-Up
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.

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