Architecture education activist and author Arnaldo D. Cardona, whose career has been focused on advancing interdisciplinary learning approaches, published an innovative curriculum guide with today’s classrooms in mind. By providing hands-on activities that demonstrate how architecture is an ideal springboard to engage students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), he integrates interdisciplinary strategies, critical thinking, standards of learning, rubrics, and portfolio assessment. Using a performance-based approach, he lays a solid educational foundation in which students learn by discovery.

“As a former teacher and staff developer, I designed this guide to be an invaluable tool for professional institutions and non-profit organizations to develop innovative summer and after-school programs that promote project-based education,” said the author, whose master’s degree in Art and Art Education is from Teachers College, Columbia University.

In addition to engaging students in STEM, the guide promotes architecture as an environmental awareness agent for those interested in improving the health, safety, and welfare of our planet.

“This guide is meant to start conversations in which Architecture is seen as an educational term with cognitive skills and gains that K-12 students may benefit from,” says Cardona. “By using an interdisciplinary approach, architecture can be seen as an ideal theme for curriculum design. The design process used in architecture can also be seen as a problem-solving method that can be applied to other fields. The book is also meant to provide existing professional organizations with a guide to pursuing the implementation of their own K-12 programs. I hope that by bringing the concepts of architecture education as an educational term, this will motivate colleagues and scholars to conduct further studies and publications of these concepts.”

The guide is composed of Cardona’s experience and practice as an environmental designer, K-12 art and special education teacher, and college instructor in the fields of landscape architecture, art, and education.

“My goal is to show how interdisciplinary curricula using a career subject can be used to create meaningful learning experiences,” said Cardona. “As an art educator, I have tried to show the importance of offering more hands-on and project-based activities in which students learn by doing, promoting high levels of creativity. As a former art teacher, I always shared with my students that ‘art is communication, the pure expression of the soul.’ For this reason, I hope this publication touches your soul and successfully motivates you to see architecture as the mother of all artistic expressions.”

To learn more about this new interdisciplinary approach to education, read K-12 Architecture Education: An Interdisciplinary Guide for Art, Design, STEM, and Career/Technical Teachers.

The author featured next to the STEM model projects. Various miniature buildings surround him.
Image courtesy of Arnaldo D. Cardona

About the Author: 

The topic of K-12 educational programs in Architecture has been a very personal endeavor for Arnaldo D. Cardona. His first bachelor’s was from the School of Architecture at the University of Puerto Rico and later he finished a degree in Landscape Architecture at City College of New York. He researched how the theme of Architecture can be an ideal theme for curriculum design while pursuing his master’s degree in Art and Art Education at Teachers College (1989-94), Columbia University. His thesis, “Learning through Architecture: An Interdisciplinary Curriculum Guide for Art Educators.” used a selected building to design interdisciplinary experiences using Architecture as a central theme.

In 1995, Cardona became a teacher at New York City Public Schools and later received a scholarship from City College of New York to finish a Master of Science in Education. Working as a teacher in 1997, he designed and implemented summer and after-school programs in Architecture for elementary and middle school students. In 2002 he became a Middle School Coordinator and wrote grants and coached teachers in writing curricula that integrated Architecture. Later on, he collaborated with some non-profit organizations in New York City working as an Architect-Educator for some after-school and summer programs. 

In addition, he was an adjunct and full-time professor at colleges in New Jersey and New York, teaching courses in assessment in Special Education, integrating Math and Art in childhood settings, and Education seminar courses. In 2021, Mr. Cardona also facilitated summer programs using Architecture to integrate STEM for learning experiences in Richmond, Virginia.

Mr. Cardona is a retired landscape architect, and art & special education teacher. He is documenting all of the K-12 learning experiences he designed over the past 30 years in Architecture and Landscape Architecture. His goal is to help educators see Architecture as more than a career and as an art discipline, ideal to use for designing interdisciplinary and STEM learning experiences.