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Middle Schoolers Learn to Design Their Futures and Their Environment

Tommy McNeil  pours paint into what will become a river running through a city during ENV Camp

This week, 24 students ages 10-13 will spend a week at Cal Poly Pomona thinking like architects, landscape architects, urban planners and visual communication professionals to design their own ideal cities. The goal of ENV Summer Camp: Design Your Future, hosted by the College of Environmental Design from July 8-11, is to introduce young students of color to college and career paths at one of the nation’s top architecture and design schools.

“This summer program was created to help students explore the many layers, decisions and processes that have built the world around them — to help them understand that cities and communities did not happen on accident, but that people made these decisions,” said Associate Dean Andrew Wilcox. “For all the problems we face today, we want our campers to understand that they can be the ones to offer new solutions … they can be the people to design the world they live in and share with their friends and families.”

Now in its second year, the summer camp is offered at no cost through a partnership with the National College Resources Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to curtailing high school drop-out rates, increasing college enrollment of underrepresented students and to closing the gaps in educational achievement, workforce and economic disparities. This year’s campers are from communities in the Inland Empire, and Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Each day of camp will be devoted to a design discipline, with hands-on activities — from model-making to mural painting — augmenting lessons on the anatomy of cities, the benefits of urban forests and green infrastructure, how buildings are designed, and the role of art in communities.

“The design disciplines are still relatively unknown and are drastically under-represented by people from historically marginalized communities,” said faculty lead Claire Latané, associate professor and chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture. “We need our environmental design disciplines to reflect the communities we work in if we are to plan and design cities and regions to support health, equity, and climate justice.”

Latané and her faculty team hope that Cal Poly Pomona’s campus and early exposure to the design disciplines will inspire campers to envision themselves as students achieving their dreams of academic, professional and personal success at the No. 1 polytechnic university in social mobility, where 55 percent of the student population identifies as first-generation.

Two students make mountains out of clay
Naomi Haynes paints during ENV Camp
T.J. Kavia spreads paint into what will become a river running through a city
Mason Siah makes a tower for a city  during ENV Camp
Two boys work on a tower