by mary hendrickse, school & youth groups manager

The National Building Museum welcomed thousands of students in school visits during FY13, with special programs that increased awareness of the world we design and build.  Architecture 101 connected students to the PLAY WORK BUILD exhibition and introduced some of the basic concepts associated with architecture and design: communication, experimentation and play, drawing, and model making. Our in-house educators worked with a Teacher Advisory Board and staff at the Rockwell Group architecture firm to develop this program, which was held 47 times during just the winter and spring sessions!

“I can’t express loudly enough how fabulous this last field trip was at the National Building Museum. This is my ninth year of organizing the Tuckahoe visits and the experience has not lessened in anyway.”

 Theresa Coffman, Tuckahoe Elementary School, Arlington, VA

We were extraordinarily lucky to have an exciting new addition to our classroom spaces during the last year. With the Green Schools exhibition came the installation of Sprout Space, a green modular classroom on the Museum’s West Lawn. The modular, energy-efficient, and healthy learning space allowed us room to offer the Green by Design and City by Design programs to more school groups. As a truly green concept, Sprout Space was not only a classroom, but also was a tool itself to teach with, since it is filled with innovations such as rainwater collection tanks, a garden, low-energy consumption lighting and HVAC, safe materials, solar panels, and more. Our programs ask kids to become architects, designing and building model green houses for communities around the United States. When we’re teaching in Sprout Space, students have the opportunity to be inspired by their immediate surroundings.

“The program did a great job of engaging all students and holding their interest. I was nervous that my students would not focus because it was late in the afternoon and they were wound up, but the student-involved instruction, pattern search, and classroom activities were very fun and the students loved them. For me, the best part was hearing my students apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to a new situation.”

DCPS Kindergarten teacher


Homeschool Day Programs


Engaging a growing audience of homeschooled students and families, we offered eight new programs during three Homeschool Days. One of the most popular programs was the Engineering Egg Drop, during which students were challenged to design a container to protect an egg using just one sheet of paper and a rubber band. That’s right—no glue, boxes, tape, bubble wrap, just the basics!

“It extended my daughters’ learning and introduced them to a whole new way to use science and math in the real world. They were inspired. They came home and started designing houses online! Great job.”

Participant parent

Students designed creative containers that survived a 25 foot drop from the Museum’s second floor balcony in the Great Hall. Even though it was fun, the heart of the program was an educational experience about using a design process similar to those used by engineers. Students learned to define the problem, investigate, generate ideas, plan, construct, and evaluate the results.

“We loved the way the 2-hour block was broken into several activities and were also very impressed with the rooms in which they took place. My children loved the opportunity to construct things as part of a group before the sketching exercise took place. Mary, our guide was wonderful, friendly, and outgoing. I also liked Fran, who was in training on this day. My children love outings, workshops, and field trips of all sorts, as well as meeting other children. This particular workshop was an excellent supplement to their regular art curriculum as well as science/engineering.”

Participant parent


Images: Top: Photo by Kevin Allen. Middle: Photo by Museum staff. Bottom: Photo by Kevin Allen.

Total Students



Total Teachers



New Programs:

Architecture 101
Become a Cartographer
Become a City Planner
Build a Green Roof
Design your Dream House
Engineering Egg Drop
Frieze Stories
Miniature Park Design



Homeschool Student Participants