Community engagement has long been a pivotal part of the design process. Much of what we understand about the students we design educational spaces for, materializes from the valuable insight gained from educators and specialists armed with the knowledge of how children grow, develop, and learn.


This past November at the Association for Learning Environments 2020 LearningSCAPES Virtual Conference, BRW Architects’ Kathy Lee, K12 Business Development Leader, had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion on The Integration of Diversity: Designing for Inclusion. Joining Ms. Lee was a distinguished group of panelists comprised of Anne Hildenbrand, AIA, ALEP, Associate Principal with BRW Architects, who has been designing educational facilities for most of her 25-year career.  Anne was joined by Monica Simonds, M.Ed., Director of Advanced Learning Programs and Services with Richardson ISD, Beth Sheehan, M.Ed., also from Richardson ISD and works with the Council of PTAs Special and Gifted Education serving as the Understanding Differences Coordinator and Ashley Jones, Elementary S.T.E.A.M. Instructional Coach with Highland Park ISD.



Each panelist brought something different to the table, ensuring an enlightening conversation about why it is so important that designers and educators alike integrate diversity into today’s learning environments. Most of us understand the basic principles of Universal Design but are we really recognizing the reality of diversity and how diversity among students can directly impact achievement, aid in developing empathy, and even help a student feel safer?  Our conversation centered around the varying needs of all learners, and that by combining design and educational goals, we can collectively promote engagement and inclusion, and increase awareness and access.


Architecture and the spaces we inhabit subconsciously affect our mood. Thoughtful, well-designed architecture can have a profound influence on our well-being, as well as a major impact on cognitive development in children. Designing environments that give way to positive school experiences for all students is our foundation.


We were honored to speak at A4LE 2020 LearningSCAPES Passport for Learning Virtual Conference. To learn more about the Association for Learning Environments and its mission, go to