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Piloting Virtual "Building the Future" Curriculum

On January 2nd, 2021, the New York City Department of Design and Construction STEAM Senior Program Coordinator Tatiana Vargas and Carter Ballentine, a 4th grade student at P.S. 108 in Brooklyn, tested our most successful program in a virtual format. "Building the Future" is a curriculum for young engineers, which the STEAM team has converted into a virtual format for use with STEAM program partners. Under Ms. Vargas’ supervision, Carter created a model of a sustainable and resilient future city with materials readily found at home.

Like so many other Americans, Ms. Vargas has been working from home not only doing her full-time job but also taking care of a family member—in this case Carter, because Carter’s mom is an essential worker. Ms. Vargas takes over after school to ensure that Carter’s homework assignments are completed and that he is prepared for the following school day. STEAM is grateful to Carter’s mom, Ms. Cuevas, for her service to our city and we were delighted to have had Carter’s assistance testing the pilot virtual curricula.

Tatiana Vargas stated, “DDC’s ‘Building the Future’ curriculum emphasizes the structural characteristics of 3D shapes, bridge engineering, constructing with I-beams, creating building models and green technologies such as bioswales, tower gardens and green roofs. We teach students through fun and engaging hands-on engineering- and architecture-related activities. I’m very proud of Carter. His model city is well planned, sustainable and very resilient.”

Carter Ballentine stated, “I’ve worked with the STEAM Team for several years and have always enjoyed going into the office over the school breaks. Now that we’re working from home it was really fun to be able to test out the new STEAM virtual program and all the games. I learned a lot and had lots of fun! When I grow up, I want to become a scientist and or an inventor.”

The virtual curricula tested by Carter will enable students to learn the engineering and architectural concepts they will need to master in order to create a sustainable and resilient city. Students get to draw images of a future city, research a building that used green technology (LEED) and explain how those this technology decreases the carbon footprint. Students have the option of researching a public building developed by DDC that is LEED certified and showing how the building’s features help the environment. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership. Students can also research a building anywhere in the world that is unique and explain what they find attractive about the building, whether it be its shape, foundation, purpose, green technology, color, placement, or the construction materials used. They can also choose to create a future model city, using easily available materials like: paper, tape, markers, toilet paper rolls, tissue boxes, coffee, pasta, beans, crackers, shampoo containers, Legos, Christmas lights and other easy to access materials. The goal of the new virtual curricula is to help students grow in confidence as they develop new ideas and learn challenging engineering and architectural concepts.

A student builds a model city from household items

Carter builds the city of the future


About the NYC Department of Design and Construction

The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s long-term vision of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, and new or upgraded roads, sewers and water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $14 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to City projects. For more information, please visit