Student Walking Tours

The Iowa Architectural Foundation is fortunate to have architects and intern architects available during the academic year to provide guided walking tours of downtown Des Moines for students. Our tour for school groups lasts approximately one hour and is best suited for those in 3rd grade or higher. The route is a circular loop in the central business district. Students on these tours are provided with an activity – a scavenger hunt to find architectural details and elements along the tour route.

This program is offered at no cost in 2024. Bus transportation reimbursement is available until funds are exhausted. To request a student tour, please call 515-244-1888 or e-mail

About IAF’s “Architective” Tours

Appointing each student an “architective” on the prowl for architectural features, IAF’s architectural scavenger hunts teach upper elementary students to recognize and appreciate architectural styles and details during a one-hour, architect-led walking tour of downtown Des Moines.

  • Students arrive by bus at Capital Square (400 Locust St.) where they are greeted by their guides in the atrium.
  • Each student receives a scavenger hunt scratch-off card as a visual guide and fun activity to accompany their walking tour.
  • Volunteer guides, all industry professionals, lead students through a downtown Des Moines route, helping them locate and identify key architectural features on their cards and interpret the architecture around them.
  • Students end their tour at Capital Square to board their bus and return to school.
  • Tours generally occur rain or shine, but may be rescheduled in case of lightning. Umbrellas and walking shoes encouraged!
  • Field trip lasts approximately 1.5 hours from deboarding and reboarding buses.
  • Teachers may supplement the tours with in-class viewings of short “Architreasures” videos of the following sites along the tour route (click to view):

Grade Levels and Iowa Fine Arts Standards Supported

“Architective” walking tours of the Des Moines cityscape introduce 3rd-4th grade elementary students to architecture as a form of public art. Scavenger hunt booklets are paired with expert narratives about architectural sites to enable students to observe architectural features and environments, as well as to acquire the appropriate vocabulary and criteria for evaluating architecture. This experience also imparts to students the major comparative lenses – historical, social, and artistic – for analyzing architectural styles.

Iowa Fine Arts Standards achieved by this program include three of the four umbrella visual arts categories: Creating, Responding, and Connecting.

Primary Anchor Standards include: 

Anchor Standard 2: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work. Essential Question(s): How do objects, places, and design shape lives and communities? How do artists and designers determine goals for designing or redesigning objects, places, or systems? How do artists and designers create works of art or design that effectively communicate?

Anchor Standard 8: Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work. Essential Questions(s): What is the value of engaging in the process of art criticism? How can the viewer “read” a work of art as text? How does knowing and using visual art vocabularies help us understand and interpret works of art?

Anchor Standard 9: Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work. Essential Question(s): How does one determine criteria to evaluate a work of art? How and why might criteria vary? How is a personal preference different from an evaluation?

Anchor Standard 11: Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding. Essential Question(s): How does art help us understand the lives of people of different times, places, and cultures? How is art used to impact the views of a society? How does art preserve aspects of life?

Spring 2024 Cost and Reimbursement Options

The Iowa Architectural Foundation is pleased to offer this program at low or no cost in 2024, thanks to grant funds for program fees and bus transportation.

  • Program fee: $30 per class of 25 students – covered by our generous sponsors in 2024!
  • Transportation reimbursement resources in spring 2024:School Districts outside Greater Des Moines: With support from the Iowa Arts Council, IAF can reimburse schools for a portion of transportation costs, until all funds are expended. Transportation receipts must be submitted to IAF within 30 days following the field trip.School Districts within Greater Des Moines: IAF program participation expenses incurred by schools are eligible for reimbursement through the “Passport to Culture” program, funded in part by a grant from the Greater Des Moines Community Foundation.Per Bravo Greater Des Moines, which administers the “Passport to Culture” program: “School districts may use available funds for K-5 students to participate in programs that are best suited to their needs. Educators may reach out directly to eligible cultural organizations and schedule experiences that align with their core curriculum objectives. Schools will be reimbursed for expenses related to admission fees, presenter fees and/or student transportation. Please contact Amy Saylor at 515.243.0388 or with any questions.”Schools and districts eligible for “Passports to Culture” funding include:

Ankeny Community School District
Carlisle Elementary
Dallas Center-Grimes Community Schools
Des Moines Public Schools
Indianola CSD
Johnston Community School District
North Polk CSD
Norwalk Community Schools
Saydel Community School District
Southeast Polk CSD
Urbandale Schools
Waukee Community School District
West Des Moines Community Schools
Christ the King School
Des Moines Christian School
Grand View Christian School
Sacred Heart School
St. Anthony School
St. Francis of Assisi School
St. Luke the Evangelist School
St. Pius X

IAF’s architective tour program is made possible by grants from the following:

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