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Miami Proud: Architects Team Up With Middle School For A Creative Course in Opportunity

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Students at Henry Reeves K-8 Academy of Applied Technology in North Miami are getting a chance to dream up some new digs at their school.

In a pilot program with Stantec, a global design and architecture firm, weekly lessons include many of the steps and skills that go into designing.

They task the kids with conceptualizing and designing a hypothetical new space for their school.

The goal is to introduce the students to architecture, engineering, and construction concepts, how they relate to STEM courses (Science, Technology Engineering, Mathematics), and how they apply in the real world.

Elana Dieudonne, a sixth-grader, said she and her team decided to do a fashion building. Students address the class and go over the details of their ideas and designs.

Other teams are working on a media center and an appealing state-of-the-art cafeteria.

For sixth-grader Alyah Machado, who likes to draw, the first step in design. She is enjoying the project. She provided some of the ideas for the cafeteria, including vending machines, nice seating areas, and adding, "it has to be clean!"

Joel Stewart and Natalia Valdes are architects at Stantec who work with the student teams proving insight and guidance. They help the kids explore how the space will be used and ways to make it appealing and functional.

Both are passionate about their work and eager to share what it takes with a new generation.

"Whether it's designing, creativity, engineering, math, communication, collaboration - but more than anything it's to inspire them," said Valdes.

Johnny Fields is in eighth grade. He is on the team working on the media center. He said the hands-on lesson from experts is helpful, adding that they give them a lot of examples of how they work.

"It's not just learning how things are built," said Stewart, "They're also learning teamwork - how to work in groups. What we do is critical, to be able to work with engineers and contractors, and people in the community."

Part of the curriculum is for the firm to bring the students to see finished products – high-rise buildings. They also plan to expand the program to more students and schools.

Reeves Principal Julian Gibbs emphasized the importance of partnerships like this.

"We want to make sure that all of our students have an opportunity, that they see exactly what's out there. When companies come in from the private sector and show them what they do and then they say, 'I can do that too'," he said.

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