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Trauma-Informed Environmental Design with Children and Youth

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Trauma-Informed Environmental Design with Children and Youth

Our mission:
This studio relates design with resilience, social equity, health and well-being, and innovation. It taps into the need to provide children who have experienced trauma, toxic stress and addiction with sensitively designed indoor and outdoor spaces to help them alleviate the systemic effects of traumatic adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in a safe and nurturing way. All children and youth, regardless of race, gender, or socio-economic status deserve opportunities to grow and thrive.

Our goals this semester include: establishing trauma-informed design principles, developing a deeply engaged participatory design process and creating an evidence-based campus master plan for the new YSS Healing Campus. This campus, sited on a 54-acres wild parcel between Ames and Des Moines, is scheduled to begin construction in the spring of 2022. For REAL! We will work side-by-side with the client, architects, engineers, and most importantly, the kids.

The Charge from YSS:
“YSS emergency shelter and addiction treatment programs have been run out of old, retrofitted homes since their inception. While these locations have provided a homelike setting for our programs, they’ve also endured significant wear and tear while serving thousands of youth. As you can imagine, these homes were never designed for shelter or treatment and simply lack the durability to provide best in class care. Our ability to provide best in class care is hindered in our current buildings. Our treatment is less effective in this environment.”

Trauma-informed environmental design is an under-recognized area with design and scholarship, yet by nature of the challenges the children and youth face, a focal point of the project.

Note: An architecture team will be selected later this week. At that point, I will request a co-instructor from the team for this studio.

Course Credit
  • 6
Iowa State University Innovate @ Iowa State
  • Social Entrepreneurship
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
  • Good Health and Well-Being
  • Reduced Inequalities
  • Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Upload relevant imagery (prior student works or site pictures)
Will this course be cross-listed?


Days/times for the course

MWF 1:10-4:30

Field trip locations


Field trip schedule


Suggested course fee


Course fee justification

If deemed important to the project, we may take a trip or two to visit places that are aspirational with a mission similar to that of YSS.
Course fees may be needed for travel to the project site nearly Huxley/Cambridge, Iowa.

Teaching faculty name(s)

Julie Stevens

All ISU Majors
  • Juniors
  • Seniors and graduate students
Maximum enrollment