Bee Inspired

New coloring book highlights careers in architecture.

Numerous programs and theories have arisen over the past few years in an attempt to address the growing need for young people in the skilled trades. The majority of those efforts target high school students (through programs like that at Des Moines’ Central Campus and the Build My Future events across the state) and young adults looking for an alternative to the traditional four-year degree (through apprenticeships and on-the-job training programs offered by many employers).

The Iowa Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Iowa) is targeting an even younger audience—elementary students—with a new coloring book the group recently introduced. “We want to inspire the next generation by fostering, educating, and helping to spark interest in a career in architecture for young readers,” says AIA Iowa’s Executive Director Jessica Reinert.

She says the original concept for the project began last summer. The first copies of the book were released in April. “We realized there was a need for more outreach to young readers, highlighting the great things architects do for our community. I’ve always loved the books my boys received in elementary school that taught them about what a firefighter or a police officer does, and I thought, ‘We can do that for architects!’”

The book, Bee an Architect Activity & Coloring Book, highlights the important skills and interests an architect needs, following Bee through different activities. “There are a variety of fun interactive puzzles, activities, and illustrations designed for preschool, kindergarten, and elementary children,” Reinert explains. “It’s important for children to know what an architect does and how architecture affects all of us in our daily lives, from our house to our school and to the local grocery store or hospital in our community.”

The book is available through libraries and classrooms across the state. Reinert says the Iowa Chapter has made it a priority to reach underserved neighborhoods throughout the state, including rural and urban areas. To help with accessibility, the book is available in both print and digital formats through, the group’s website.

The group began distributing promotional materials, including bookmarks and posters, in advance of the print release, which clearly served its purpose. “All 7,500 printed copies of the book and 5,000 bookmarks are already earmarked for distribution to public libraries across Iowa, to elementary school educators, sponsoring architectural firms, the Boys and Girls Club, and a number of other kid-friendly community events over the summer,” says Reinert.

As with any Association project, Reinert says the Bee an Architect book was a group effort from initial concept to finished product. “The character itself was designed by Azusa Allard, AIA, an architect at FEH Associates. The ideas for activities within the book came from Gladys Petersen, Associate AIA, who’s an intern architect from Hy-Vee Corporation. And Emily Lyon, AIA Iowa Communications and Outreach Coordinator, handled the printing and promotion of the piece.”

Reinert herself formulated and wrote the story for the book. “It’s so important for children to be exposed to resources like this. It helps them visualize themselves as an architect one day, just the way my boys used to do with books about police officers and firemen,” she says.

Activities in the book include word searches, mazes, and shape identification and offer glimpses into the tools used and tasks performed by an architect throughout the day.

The first of its kind in the country, Bee an Architect has already spurred interest from other AIA chapters that have inquired about the project. Reinert says the Iowa chapter plans to release more books in the future, possibly creating new characters to highlight different aspects of the architecture world. “We hope this will inspire other AIA chapters across the country to build upon the impact this book is having and to meet the needs of the young readers in their respective states,” she says.

Whether it’s designing the structures, constructing them, or playing a part somewhere along the way, the future of the architecture, engineering, and construction industries depends on young people who are inspired to pursue careers in these fields.

Maybe any child in the United States can grow up to be President. But a lot more are needed in other roles. Those are dreams worth inspiring, too.

Learn More.

For more information about the book or to order a copy: