In our work we’ve found unexpected ways of bringing underrepresented voices to public discussions. One of our most successful (and fun) ways of reaching underrepresented communities is through school-based outreach programs. When we collaborate with teams on big projects, such as the Sellwood Bridge replacement project, we like to include the ideas and participation of students and their families in our community outreach. Working in schools helps us create a link for students between real-world issues and challenges and classroom learning objectives. This also creates opportunities for students to make lasting contributions to their environment through art installations and even functional elements like the steel benches on the Sellwood Bridge. This process also helps our teams communicate with families who may not have otherwise been informed or involved in the project.
Recently, LCA visited the classrooms at Lakeridge Jr. High School in association with the Lake Oswego School Bond project. We worked with 7th and 8th-grade architecture students to understand the process of funding, designing, and building capital improvement projects in Lake Oswego public schools. Working from mobile classrooms on the construction site of their new school, these students applied their structural engineering basics in a building challenge, they learned about the political process of passing a school bond in a role-playing activity, and they practiced their public speaking by communicating bond project elements during community open house events.
We believe that collaborating with students provides us with valuable insight into how to increase public awareness and participation in the projects that affect our city and our lives.