Inspiring A New, Diverse Generation of Designers: Everett Middle School



“For the profession of landscape architecture to remain relevant and responsive, it must better represent the communities and people it serves. Greater diversity brings new perspectives and thought leadership, strengthens professional/community connections, and supports social equity” – ASLA Mirroring the Nation: Landscape Architecture and the Future of the Profession

During our Salon “Equity in Landscape Architecture: The Power of Representation”, panelists Davi de la Cruz, Jenn Low, and Roberto Rovira spoke about the importance of educating and developing young designers from K-12 schools through university to diversify the landscape architecture profession and end systemic racism through the built environment. In our effort to educate K-12 students about landscape architecture, we started with schools in our own community of San Francisco. We had the opportunity co-create a design process focused curriculum with Everett Middle School. The design curriculum met State and National Standards for Art, specifically pertaining to Landscape Architecture.  

Everett Middle School is a public school located at the border of the vibrant Castro and Mission districts, serving a diverse student population, and offering unique enrichment in arts, leadership, and civic activism.

In Spring 2021, CMG Designer Mwinyi El-Kindiy collaborated with Everett Middle School’s 8th Grade Visual Arts Teacher Ms. Andrews. Together, they developed a design curriculum centered on Landscape Architecture and the Built Environment. The intention of the collaboration was to expose and inspire students to potential career paths and educate them as to why it is important for multiple voices in design.

Ideally, we would have preferred to teach the students in their classrooms, but that wasn’t feasible due to COVID-19 guidelines. It was a challenge to teach the students over Zoom as Landscape Architecture is usually taught in a studio setting. Over the course of eight weeks, Ms. Andrews and Mwinyi adapted and taught the students how to use digital drawing tools.

To create a Design Program for Everett Middle School, Mwinyi and Ms. Andrews referenced K-12 lesson planning and educational resources by ASLA, FLAA, and LAF.

Curriculum Overview

Week 1 – Introduction to the Built Environment and Profession

It was important for students to understand that everything built around them was designed. At CMG, we like to emphasize that landscape architecture is a collaborative process between multiple professions such as landscape architecture, architecture, urban planning, and environmental science. An early education in design can lead to many possible career paths that have an impact on the built environment.

Week 2 – Aesthetics, Economy, Community and Ecology

Mwinyi introduced the students to Landscape Architecture through Aesthetics, Economy, Community, and Ecology. He gave specific examples of how Landscape Architecture can address things like:

  • Social Justice. Who are we designing for? How are communities protected from gentrification?
  • Community Outreach. Why it is important to understand what the community needs or wants? What is the value in having the community involved in the process?
  • Ecological Justice. Why is it important to design areas that promote and strengthen interconnections between humans and the natural environment? How do we restore habitats?
  • Diversification of the professional field. How do we get more voices of different backgrounds to cocreate spaces? Why are multiple voices important?

Week 4 – Introduction to the Project Site: Everett Middle Schoolyard

For the design exercise, Everett Middle Schoolyard was the perfect project site for the students to re-imagine. It is a space that they all are familiar with and use daily.

During the community engagement phase, the school’s staff members were surveyed by Ms. Andrews about the desires and needs of the space after years of observing students using the yard. The staff reported that the schoolyard needed more shade, less paving, trees to serve as a windscreen, outdoor classroom areas, spaces dedicated to recreational activities, and murals on the existing walls.

Week 5 – Writing the Project’s Narrative

The students were prompted to think through some essential questions about the Schoolyard as the basis of the project’s narrative and inform the design.

  • What currently exists?
  • What does not?
  • What could be kept?
  • What needs to be changed or added?
  • How does it feel in the space?
  • How can this opportunity to redesign the schoolyard be used to promote aesthetics, economy, community, and ecology?

Week 6 – Designing the Site 

The students did a quick sketch out bubble diagrams to create a basic layout for the design, followed by incorporating elements outlined in their written narratives, and refined the bubble diagrams again for a first draft of their Schoolyard designs.

Week 8 – Design Review

The first draft designs were shared anonymously over zoom with the entire class, Ms. Andrews, and Mwinyi, who then provided critiques and design suggestions.

The students refined their work and presented their final designs at the end of the semester incorporating Ms. Andrews and Mwinyi’s feedback.

Thank you to Everett Middle School and Ms. Andrew for allowing us to bring our passion for landscape architecture to your students. By working with schools and youth organizations, we hope to increase representation in our field and inspire a new, more diverse generation of designers. If you know a Bay Area school teacher, who would be interested in introducing their class to the field of landscape architecture, please email info@cmgsite.com.