AGC Students Explore Structure at Cannon Design

AGC Students Explore Structure at Cannon Design

Students in the Academy for Global Citizenship’s 5th grade have been studying structures for weeks. They can tell you why a triangle is a strong shape and why the triangular point of a roof is oriented up, allowing “water, snow, and dead leaves,” fall off the structure instead of into it. They can tell you what they learned from their guest lecture and hands-on projects that they might not have gathered through direct instructions, like why a strong base is crucial to the design of any structure.  They can tell you the difference between “live weight” and “dead weight.”  They have even begun designing houses on their own, in pairs of two, based on specifications from virtual clients using a computer modeling program. “It’s hard,” they say, “because the client will sometimes have really specific things they want, like a master bedroom with a bathroom, or a basement recording studio, but sometimes they’re not specific at all, and you have to imagine what they would want, like brick, or wood or glass.”

For a key test of their understanding, these students are visiting the architecture studios of Cannon Design. This is a an exciting moment for students interested in a career in architecture or design, of which there are already a few in class. Adrian, at 10, says he’s known he wanted to be an architect since was 8. He admires the simple, gentle style of Frank Lloyd Wright and knows the proper name for “the bean.” For students like Adrian, this trip is an opportunity to try on a career. For others students this is also a chance to get a peek into their future, as Cannon’s Education branch, The Third Teacher, will be designing AGC’s energy net-positive future campus.


At Cannon, students were split into small groups for tours with Cannon staff members. They observed spaces designed for work, creativity, relaxation and collaboration. Open tables, bright hallways, white cloud-like lighting structures, and high-backed benches work together in the Cannon offices. Along the tour, they saw renderings of spaces designed for different kinds of work, for Cannon’s clients in education, healthcare and corporations. They pondered the utility of different building materials and the artistic and functional role of unusual shapes. They had the opportunity to interview designers, technical directors and lighting specialists.


Finally, students were given their assignments: each group of 10 was tasked with building a model, using only coffee-stirrers, index cards and scotch tape, that could hold the weight of 10 pennies… in 15 minutes. Take a look at their designs!

Following their tour, students explored downtown Chicago for examples of the concepts they were exploring, and met a welcome surprise under the impressive dome in the mosaic-adorned Chicago Cultural Center: a private show with a classical pianist!


We’d like to thank our friends at Cannon for the thoughtful and educational morning and for entertaining our inquirers’ many questions!  These trips are an amazing opportunity for our students to practice skills, understand lessons in context, explore career paths, and witness the exciting innovations taking place in their backyard!

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