Greetings - I hope everyone enjoyed the networking happy hour last week in collaboration with the Potomac Chapter. Thanks to all for a good turnout at an event right on the heels of the holidays!
I’m pulling a little inspiration to kick off the new year – from ASLA’s Career Discovery initiative. What better way to start a new year, than by unlocking the endless possibilities of the profession of landscape architecture for a group of young people!
There are many professions well known to the average person, and well represented in children’s books and in the classroom – first-responder, chef, doctor, teacher, pilot, nurse. Even related or tangential professions like scientist, farmer, artist, engineer, landscape contractor, construction worker, and architect. But, not Landscape Architect.
We typically learn about a profession as we encounter them or their work. Kids go the doctor and school, so they know about doctors and teachers. Similarly as adults, people encounter roads and buildings daily, and could pretty easily identify engineer or architect as the professionals who designed them. But people also encounter the work of landscape architects almost daily, without any idea who designed it – or that it was “designed” at all. So it is up to us, the daily practitioners of the profession, to educate whenever we can. And starting with children maximizes the impact, often also connecting with their parents and teachers.
So to that end, there are many resources already available on ASLA’s website (most can be found here. Don’t let the title fool you, these are not just for teachers, but for anyone who wants to make a presentation to young people about landscape architecture. Hello, Career Day at your neighborhood school! Generally, you do not need to have a child enrolled to participate. In addition to these resources, new design activity workbooks are in the works, hopefully for release later this year. These are targeted by age group and have several design “problems” for children to solve using a design equivalent of a word bank. While simplified and straightforward, these questions help steer the kids toward “thinking like a landscape architect.”
Believe it or not, Career Discovery and promoting the profession to K-12 educators, parents, and students is also a part of Advocacy. In the face of declining professional membership AND declining enrollment in accredited Landscape Architecture degree programs, building up the next generation is critical. It is not hyperbole to say that the future of our profession depends on it.
So, I hope this inspires some of you to get out to a local school and share our great profession with young people. Imagine the amazement and impact of a kid meeting someone who designs some of their favorite places – playground, butterfly garden, city park with interactive water or sound features, that fun picnic spot outside the museum, regional park where they play little league games… The possibilities are endless!
Larissa Torres, PLA
Maryland Chapter President