UWM Architecture Students Supporting 25 Teachers in 17 Schools

We’re in our second year of a working with Arijit Sen’s Architecture & Human Behavior class (Arch 302)  at UWM. In collaboration with UWM’s Center for Student Experience & Talent (SET), we’ve placed the 150+ Arch 302 students in service learning roles with 25 teachers in 17 area schools, and with us. The focus of students’ work for Arch 302 is the design of learning spaces, and the 1-2 hours per week they each spend to support teachers and students serves as a field experience and preparation for their design challenge. Over the course of the semester, In teams of 2-3, Arch 302 students will develop design proposals to better address the needs of teachers, students, and staff who use the classrooms Arch 302 students are supporting.  At five of those schools, teams are supporting teachers and students who have take on a parallel design challenge at their school. The two teams placed with us are focused on the room we use for most of our Collab Labs at MSOE’s STEM Center. 

The framework we have in place for this effort creates wins all around– a richer experience for Arch 302 students, classroom support for teachers and schools, and exposure to new ways schools might look at the learning spaces they offer. Beyond all of that, given the number of Arch 302 students involved, roughly 2,500 K-12 students most of whom are in majority minority schools with high percentages of students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, have weekly exposure to a young person pursuing the field. For an industry with a shocking lack of diversity, this is a big step in building a pipeline of talent that looks a lot more like Milwaukee.

This collaboration was made possible because Professor Sen had a vision for what it could mean for his students, SET had processes in place to match UWM students to placement opportunities, and we’ve built up a big enough network of schools and teachers that we could find placements for everyone in such a large class. We’re continuing to explore how we can continue to sustain and leverage this model. if you’d like to get involved, let us know.





Arch 302 Student Presentations

Lorianne Flaherty,  Valentina Romero-Moran, Kaylee Bertrand concept from their proposal Auer Avenue School

This spring our collaboration with UWM’s School of Architecture & Urban Planning (SARUP) and Center for Student Experience and Talent placed 128 architecture students in service learning roles in 15 Milwaukee and area schools.  These students were enrolled in Arch 302, Architecture and Human Behavior, and the focus of their course work was the design of learning spaces. Over the course of the semester, each UWM student provided 20 hours of support to a classroom teacher, most often working directly with students. This provided a unique way to get a sense of both how the learning spaces they were in functioned, and view of what the school experience is like for both teachers and students.

UWM students used their service learning experience to identify spaces that could better support students and teachers. Working in teams of 2 to 4, the UWM students spent additional time in the school to interview students, teachers, and staff about the spaces they used. From that, the teams developed design proposals to address issues of concern or opportunities to tailor the space to better meet the needs of users. That work was shared in a public presentation at SARUP, and with each participating school.

The bigger story here is the exposure this created for the School of Architecture. Across the 15 schools, some 2,500 K12 students had regular opportunities to interact with UWM Architecture students, learn who they are as individuals and what motivates their work.  This is the broad end of a funnel to develop and recruit talent not just for UWM, but for the industry. Given the demographics of the schools involved, where 3/4 of the students are non-white and 2/3 economically disadvantaged, it’s also a funnel aimed at groups that are underrepresented in the field.

Given the overwhelming positive response from both UWM students and the schools they served, we’ll continue the collaboration over the coming school year with some expanded opportunities for participating schools. As part of our STEM Studio Workshops this summer, we’ll be working with K-12 educators, UWM, and industry partners to develop a design challenge for middle and high school students focused on space within their school. Arch 302 students will be available in the spring semester to serve as near peer mentors for K-12 students engaged in that work. We’ll be lining up additional support and on-campus experiences to support the work of students and teachers participating in the project.



Career Interviews – An Inside Look

Chloe Smith is the UWM PhD student leading the English classes working piloting our Career Interviews project.  She’s published a blog post about the experience here

Things are off to a good start:

I’m blown away by how engaged these students have been, and how willing they are to work through a research process that, for most of them, is entirely new. They’re approaching these interviews—and the prospect of the research that will come after—with enthusiasm and creativity.

How conversations lead in interesting directions

Shevaun Watson, Director of the composition program in UWM’s English Department, and I met for coffee in April to talk about her work on the landscape of languages.  Followers of Learn Deep know of our interest in maps as a point of engagement for students, and I was curious to learn more.  There’s an interesting project in that work, particularly for schools with students who speak a diverse range of languages.

Towards what I had expected to be the end of our conversation, Shevaun asked what else we were working on.  I mentioned an idea that had originated in conversations at Reagan High School.  While the school had healthcare career tracks, students had little sense of the broad range of careers inside of healthcare or the varied paths people might take to get there.  We thought an interesting way to address that would be to have students interview folks in a wide range of health care careers.  The focus would not be on the classes they took or what their day to day work looks like, but the experiences they had which led them to their career and helped develop the skills they now use.  We saw this as a process that could be used across domains, and, if the stories could be gathered and told by students across the community, a great resource for career exploration.

Shevaun was intrigued — she and her colleagues have been looking at ways to leverage the humanities for community engagement.  They were also getting a little tired of reading “interest papers” on abortion, gun control, and legalizing marijuana.  She asked “What if we gave you a couple of sections of a freshman English class to pilot the process?”  Over the summer we met with Shevaun’s team and teachers from Reagan, New Berlin, and Dr. Howard Fuller Collegiate Academy to map out what that might look like, and what the high schools teachers would need to pull the work into their classes.

Our pilot is now underway.  We tapped our network to assemble a pool of interview candidates that includes everyone from a community healthcare advocate  to bio-medical engineers to sports medicine professionals to an attorney representing the rights of the disabled.   Students will conduct their interviews the week of October 7th. We look forward to where this will lead.

Marquette Engineering Visualization Lab Visit

Teams from Menomonee Falls High School and Elmbrook’s Launch program were able to meet us at Marquette’s Visualization Lab (MARVL) to walk through their models for a new water tower at the Zoo train depot. Chris Larke, the Visual Technology Specialist for the College of Engineering set up the demonstration to include exploded views of the models with supporting documentation arrayed in the background.

To explore the models, and conduct a mini-review, we donned 3D glasses to view stereoscopic images projected on four walls within what staff call “The Cave”.

After a review of both models and a chance for students to drive the presentation, Mark Federle, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, was kind enough to give us a tour of the Olin Engineering building. Thanks Mark and Chris for all that went in to putting this together!

Have Stuff, Need Stuff?

As we continue to test ideas around up-cycling, we have folks offering to give us material and run across others who can make use of what we have.  To date we’ve gathered and distributed equipment for tear-down activities, parts salvaged from that equipment, and everything from postage stamps (cancelled) to plywood (new).

We don’t want to be the warehouse for everything that might come and go.  Since it gives us a better view into what schools can make use of, we are more than happy to facilitate an exchange.

If you need materials for a project or have something a school might use, let us know.

    Design Thinking Workshop at Briggs & Stratton

    We were delighted to have Briggs & Stratton’s Concept Team host a design thinking workshop for students engaged in our Zoo Train Challenge.  The Briggs team took the students through a crash course in design thinking following the model developed at Stanford’s D School.

    With that as background, students walked through a process to:

    • Understand the concerns of Zoo staff who interact with the water tower used to service the Zoo’s steam locomotives
    • Define a key problem that would be the focus of their efforts
    • Generate ideas for potential solutions
    • Create a prototype to demonstrate their concept.


    Beyond sparking some initial thinking, the session served as a great chance for teachers leading student teams to connect around how they look to run the project.

    The session wrapped up with a chance to explore some Briggs & Stratton designs in virtual reality and a great deal of pizza.

    Exploring School Lunch at Prince of Peace

    When we mentioned our interest in exploring the stories students might tell about lunch at their school, Emily Schober and Joal Clohisy jumped at the chance to try something out before the end of the school year. Prince of Peace was already planning a switch from pre-packaged food that kitchen staff would simply re-heat, to healthier food that would be prepared on site.  They were able to pull a group of about 20 students together, and over the course of a few weeks we worked with them to:

    • Identify issues around school lunch that were important to them
    • Develop ideas to address concerns they have
    • Tell the stories of those ideas in slide presentation

    The ideas that came out of that that effort ran from creating healthy versions of favorite family recipes, to calls for an improved culture within the lunchroom– showing courtesy to lunch staff, helping to keep the room clean, and allowing students to sit with friends rather than strictly by classroom.  Today they had a chance to take teachers and staff through their presentations.

    Student Perceptions of Safe Routes to School

    We met with a group of six students from North Division over a three week period during the school’s Wednesday night twilight programming. Our objective was to see if students were willing to share and document their concerns around getting to and from the North Division to attend both school and the twilight program, which runs from 6:30 to 9:00 PM.

    Staff from the twilight program sat in on each session.

    Over the course of our discussions, the students noted a number of situations where they feel less safe:

    • For the girls in the group, having men they did not know call out to them as they walk down the street was un-nerving. This was particularly true with older men who had been drinking, since the girls did not know “what they were up to”.
    • Cars often speed through intersections while they are trying to cross the street. This issue is even more of a concern on heavily trafficked streets.
    • They associate cars driving slowly down the block with possible drive-by shooters
    • Students feel less safe being out at night
    • Students feel less safe when they are alone
    • Students fear getting jumped by other people they see on their way to or from school
    • Though less of a problem now, they feared being victims of the point-out/knock-out game
    • Students feel less safe when walking down a block where there has been a drive-by shooting and will tend to avoid it for two to four weeks afterwards
    • Students fear getting robbed on a city bus, or as soon as they exit the bus
    • Students fear walking down streets where they see people they do not trust.
    • Girls in the group felt safer if a boy was walking with them.
    • Students don’t trust that if they were hurt on their walk that anyone would come to their aid.
    • Students don’t count on the police to be able to help or trust asking them for help.
    • Students have the experience that ambulances are not in a hurry to travel to an incident scene in their neighborhood. They equate this with a lower chance of survival should something happen to them.

    Students also identified a number of situations that help them feel safer on the journey to/from school:

    • Having a house or store within running distance (one to two blocks) where they know someone provides a greater sense that they could find help. A store where they do not have a relationship with the owner or an employee does not provide a sense of safety.
    • Walking with a one or more other students provides a greater sense of safety
    • Having a backup route in mind that allows the student to avoid a risk they see on their current path provides a greater feeling of safety than cases where they they need to take a different route but don’t know what they will find there.
    • Students feel safer when there are others coming to or leaving school at the same time.
    • Students described the greatest feeling of safety when riding in a school bus or van. In their experience, a staff person (in addition to the bus driver) would be on board to ensure students weren’t hassled. They described riding in a school shuttle with friends, as fun– they felt safe being off the street and were able to relax.


    Students avoid engaging with adults they don’t know who call out to them as they walk to or from school. If they do know and trust the adults, seeing them on the streets makes them feel more safe.
    A front door that has been boarded up indicates to students that something has happened at that location which causes feeling of unease.
    Stores only serve as a place students would trust to seek help if they already have a relationship with the owner or an employee.




    2023-24 Collab Labs

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