Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Design Thinking and a Real Pitch--to the Board of Education!

Two of my Architecture II students presented tonight to the Board of Education. They showed their furniture designs for the Learning Commons and talked about the research they had done interviewing teachers, students, and administrators. (See previous blog post: http://innovated2x.blogspot.com/2014/06/design-thinking-in-classroom.html) They showed the Board members why students need this type of space: the way they work has changed. They talked about the need for space where they could collaborate in groups and eat and work at the same time. They showed their design for a curvilinear booth that was inviting and comfortable. And the Board listened. My students were nervous beforehand. And then they were surprised at how easy it was! 

This was a real-life experience. Solve a real problem and pitch a solution to the people who make decisions. My students were empowered by it. They followed the Design Thinking process: did interviews, defined the problem, talked with experts and then prototyped and got feedback. These are the three proposed solutions from the three teams. 
Counter with cup holders and stool with backpack storage underneath
Circular, modular sofa with high back for noise control. Coffee table with charging ports
Booth with curvilinear table and bench with backpack storage

Friday, June 20, 2014

Making and End of Year Projects

I love the end of the year-with students working non-stop on final projects in architecture charette mode. The energy in my room is electric. Students bring friends by to see their models. Students from different sections of architecture see the work of other students who aren't in their class. They are inspired by others' ideas and then add on to their own work in a last minute rush. It's exciting.

I always ask, "What's so great about making something?" And they are all quick to answer. 'It's something that's yours. No one else made it.' 'It comes from your own ideas, and then it's real and you can hold it.' 'It's something you can look back on later and know that you figured it out. It's proof.' Our students get it... They need teachers and parents to help them do it more.

For their final projects Architecture I students create a model that controls their viewer's path through space. They are given constraints: walls may be no more than six inches high, the site is 20 x 20", etc... But within those restrictions, they create varied and individual work that reflects their personalities. I'm very proud of them and so I am sharing some of the best ones here:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Design Thinking in the Classroom

Last week my students presented their furniture designs to administrators, architects and expert furniture designers. (See previous post for more info.) They were fabulous. My students were so professional: they definitely know how to do a polished presentation. Their ideas were strong and they were able to defend their decisions with facts and information they had gathered from the interview process.
Giancarlo, furniture maker and engineering student,
 working with my students.

One group proposed a curvilinear booth with benches that could accommodate backpacks. The second group created a countertop that stretched the length of the mezzanine and contained cup holders so that drinks wouldn't spill into laptops or IPads. The high backed stool that went with it also had a place for backpack storage-a hook under the seat. And the last group proposed a circular, modular couch with high backs for noise control. The pieces would be on castors and could be rearranged around a low coffee table that also had a charging station in the middle.

Our guests asked great questions; the kids gave real answers. One of the administrators asked if they could present at the next Board of Ed meeting. Unfortunately, it is the night before the Chemistry Regents and I don't know if my students will be able to be there. Instead of following through on something that matters and in which they have invested a great deal of time and energy, they will be studying for a state test.... Real life experience meets state testing. I guess real-life will lose, as they still need the test scores.

All in all, I am really glad we tried this. We all took a risk-me, as teacher, having them tackle a problem that I didn't have much experience with, them, as students, exploring a real-life situation and providing answers after following the design thinking process. The process guided us. Experts helped us. And my students all agreed it was exciting and fun!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Real World Challenge and Teacher Role

Last Friday, I had a wonderful teaching moment. My architecture II students have taken on a real world design challenge: designing furniture for the proposed learning commons at the high school. Described as a place for classes and students to do group work, work individually, as well as eat, no one, administrators  and architects alike, seem quite sure what type of furniture would best suit this space. So my students set out to interview the future users of the space to see how and where they liked to work.

Giancarlo Paternoster talking to my students.
Last week they also talked to two experts: Jim Whalen of the Whalen Berez Group who provides interiors consulting for schools and libraries, (http://www.thewbg.com) and Giancarlo Paternoster, (http://giancarlopaternoster.com/about.php) a furniture maker/mechanical engineering student at Lehigh University and Scarsdale High School alum. They were riveted.  Jim Whalen talked to them about design and function. They asked great questions and were curious. Giancarlo followed the next day by telling them his story: how he became fascinated with making furniture. He talked about how he'd studied bicycles, learned to weld, and then found wood. He brought images of his work, his inspirations and his notebooks... My students were riveted.

Each expert talked about failure and what it had taught them. They talked about perseverance, problem solving, reaching out to other experts in their field, and about their passion for what they do. I couldn't have scripted it better if I'd tried.

As they struggle with this real-world challenge and get closer and closer to their presentations to administrators and architects, the pressure mounts. For me as well. In truth, I'm nervous. I'm facilitating this experience, but I'm not an expert. They are asking questions I can't answer. The teacher's role is different in this type of challenge. And it is uncomfortable not having the answers. But I trust the design process. And I know that this is the first iteration of this challenge. I will learn from it and so will they.

Check back in as I will blog about the outcomes-their pitches are June 11th.