Six Excel Academy of Southwest Students Enjoyed Eye-Opening Experience at Chicago Architecture Firm

 In Camelot Blog

Excel Academy of Southwest senior Courtney Dixon could not wait to take a field trip to HKS Architects, a global design architecture firm. “I really wanted to learn about everything that goes into designing and building large structures,” Dixon said.

For Courtney and five of his classmates, the trip to the firm’s downtown Chicago office was an eye-opening experience. The program, organized in the fall by the youth engagement organization My Block My Hood My City (M3), was designed to teach students all aspects of an architecture project.

Students took a tour of the firm’s offices and saw many of the plans the firm is working on, including completed projects, ongoing plans, and future projects in the design phase.

“The students were inspired and full of wonder,” said Excel Southwest Director of Student Services Juan Funes. “They loved learning about the incredibly involved process that goes into designing a building. They were amazed by the electrical work, the skeletal frames and the underlying planning that goes into building skyscrapers.”

Students came ready with questions and inquired with great interest about materials, the building of glass, the special way that glass is held in place, and the art skills that go into the work.

M3’s Explorer’s Program allows Excel Southwest students to experience industries and aspects of their city they have never seen before. The beloved program provides students with an awareness of the world and opportunities beyond their neighborhood.

“We’ve been partnering with M3 for many years because it provides educational opportunities outside of the classroom,” Funes said. “Each month they take students on exploratory missions in Chicago. The students find these missions engaging, informative, outside of the box, and outside of their norm.”

Students like Dixon participate in M3 activities every chance they get.

“M3 is a fantastic organization and I enjoy everything they have planned for us,” said Dixon. “It is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.”

The missions usually involve a high level of interactivity for students. On this particular trip, students were challenged to use straws to build the tallest structure. It required a combination of math, science and design skills from each student working together as a team.

In recent months, M3 has carefully ensured that all activities are Covid-safe. Students fill out health questionnaires ahead of time, have their temperatures taken before the program starts, participate in smaller groups, and wear masks for the entirety of the program.

“It’s very impressive the way that M3 has adapted to ensuring activities are Covid-safe, while still providing students a remarkable experience,” Funes said. “Our students are most grateful for the opportunities to participate.”

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