Cosponsored by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI), the School of the Future Design Competition is a nationwide program that encourages middle schoolers to learn about creating sustainable school environments that are healthy and energy efficient. The competition is a way for REALTORS® to connect with students, schools, and the community. NAR encourages REALTOR® associations and REALTORS® to participate in this innovative program. The most important thing REALTORS® can do is to visit schools in their communities and get them to register for the competition. They can also become mentors or guest speakers and serve as judges for the competition. REALTOR® associations can play a role by promoting the competition to their members and by supporting and sponsoring student teams.
Based on feedback from participating REALTORS®, the School of the Future Design Competition can be a life-changing experience for kids and adults--and is a valuable way for REALTORS® to serve the community. “It’s an amazing experience for the kids. And just an amazing feel-good for you,” says REALTOR® Wendy Furth, who has served as a judge and mentored a team of middle schoolers in East Los Angeles. “These fifth graders flew through the curriculum. They took copious notes--and developed an understanding of everything from composting and recycling to the role natural light plays in the classroom.”
Rick Rielly, president of Columbia-Greene Board of REALTORS® in Rhinebeck, New York, signed up a nearby middle school for the competition. When a handful of seventh-grade girls put together a team, Rielly became their mentor. During the planning and construction phase of the competition, Rick met with them for about an hour each week--bringing them a sample solar panel, offering ideas and encouragement, and donating matching polo shirts to the team. “At first, it was just something for them to do after school. But by the time these young ladies presented their design and model to the local school board--and then via Skype to the Northeast regional competition--they were transformed into hard-working, methodical, interested young women. They had gained so much confidence.” The team was pictured in their matching shirts on the cover of the district’s annual school calendar--a treat for the kids. “The school got a ton of publicity,” says Rielly.
It’s a win-win for schools. Participation costs them nothing. “It can dovetail easily into any of the projects teachers are doing in their classrooms. The curriculum is free and easily downloaded from the CEFPI website,” says Furth.
The models for the competition are made from found materials. Furth, for example, enlisted a donation of packing boxes from a local supplier. One school used pizza boxes. Another made roof tiles out of peg-like materials from a set of picture frames.
How to Get Involved
Whether you’re a REALTOR® or an association, the best place to start is by learning about the competition. Visit nar.realtor and the CEFPI website to find out more and to get the curriculum, timelines, webinars, and videos. The best way for a REALTOR® to participate is to visit a local school to tell them about the competition. The most important step for associations is to encourage REALTOR® participation. For example, the Southland Regional Association of REALTORS® in Southern California uses its website to promote the competition to its members in the Greater Los Angeles region. In some instances, associations reach out to local schools--or school districts. Allison Organtini of the Ulster County Board of REALTORS® in Kingston, New York, did just that and is now working to get the association more involved. Says Organtini, “The competition is a great way to reach out to the community and let them know we care.”
NAR provides materials to support this effort, including brochures that REALTORS® can leave behind following a school visit and postcards that REALTOR® associations can use to reach out to members. Other materials, such as the curriculum, are easily down-loaded from the CEFPI website. In addition, a video about the School of the Future Design Competition is available at nar.realtor and on the CEFPI website. “If you know teachers in your area, enlist their help,” advises Furth. “Get a group of REALTORS® together at your local association to visit area schools and make a presentation. Just open up your laptop, get online, and show them the video of the program. Those kids can sell the program better than anyone else.” Like Wendy Furth and Rick Rielly, individual REALTORS® can become mentors, working with a team of middle schoolers. Even if you haven’t had an opportunity to visit a local school, if you sign up to be a mentor at the CEFPI website, CEFPI can send you a list of participating schools in your area to help you connect with a team.
REALTOR® associations can participate by sponsoring a team of middle school competitors. A sponsorship can involve anything from setting up an event where the students can practice their presentations to funding part of a team’s travel expenses to a state, regional, or national jury. The School of the Future Design Competition is an ongoing program. Participating schools can start to register in the spring. Students begin work on their projects the following school year. Judging begins in January of each year. NAR provides cash awards to the first and second place regional winners, presented by representatives of a local REALTOR® association. The association may organize an event in conjunction with a local CEFPI chapter to honor the teams when they present the checks.
The highlight of the competition is an awards ceremony and reception for the regional winners at NAR in Washington, DC. NAR provides the funds for up to four students to travel to Washington. Local associations may want to provide additional funds to allow more students from a team to make the trip. Students love the competition because it lets them make their own learning happen, allows them to feel a sense of pride in their school and community, and helps them visualize the future. You too can become part of it.
School of the Future Design Competition at nar.realtor1
Get details about the competition, request brochures and postcards, and watch a design competition video and webinars. Distribute the brochures when you visit local schools, and use the postcards to market the competition to your colleagues and members.
Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI)2
This is where schools can register their teams, REALTORS® can sign up to be mentors, and anyone can access videos, program requirements, and curricula.
Become a fan and check out news and updates on the School of the Future Design Competition Facebook page.
See related article in Issues in Public Education, “The Benefits of Green Schools.”