Your School, Your Future

By Noaa Stoler, August 7, 2012

Grade Level

  • Middle School

Category

  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Social Studies
  • Technology

Lesson Time

The unit length is ideally 4 – 5 weeks in duration, but could easily be extended to run the length of the school term. Each phase (interpretation, ideation and implementation) could include the structured activities outlined here as well as team and individual studio extension and development time.

Introduction

Your school, your future invites students to explore and understand their role as a user in their own school environment. Their research and understanding of their school environment will act as a catalyst for change and increased ownership of the school environment.

National Standards

Common Core English Language Arts Grades 6-8 Strand-Reading for Informational Text  RI.6.1 Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text. RI.7.1 Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text. RI.8.1 Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text. Grades 6-8 Strand-Writing W.6.1, W.7.1 or W.8.1. Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence. W.6.2, W.7.2 or W.8.2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content. W.6.9, W.7.9 or W.8.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. Grades 6-8 Strand-Speaking and Listening SL.6.1, SL.7.1 or SL.8.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacherled) with diverse partners on grade topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly. SL.6.4, SL.7.4 or SL.8.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation. Life Skills-Thinking and Reasoning Standard 1. Understands and applies the basic principles of presenting an argument Level III (Grades 6-8) Benchmark 1. Evaluates arguments that are based on quantitative data and mathematical concepts Benchmark 2. Questions claims that use vague references such as "leading experts say..." or are based on the statements of people speaking outside of their expertise (e.g., celebrities) Benchmark 3. Questions conclusions based on very small samples of data, biased samples, or samples for which there is no central sample Standard 5. Applies basic trouble-shooting and problem-solving techniques Level III (Grades 6-8) Benchmark 1. Generates alternative courses of action and compares the possible consequences of each alternative Benchmark 2. Selects the most appropriate strategy or alternative for solving a problem Standard 6. Applies decision-making techniques Level III (Grades 6-8) Benchmark 1. Identifies situations in the community and in one\\\'s personal life in which a situation is required.

Objectives

  • Site Audit (interpretation)
Site Audit is a preliminary set of exercises designed to help students and teachers identify and interpret school spaces that students may wish to audit. The role of the user in the design process is introduced and students are scaffolded through the initial stage of the process with a focus on empathy, user needs and the importance of research.  
  • Site Mapping (interpretation)
Site Mapping builds on students’ initial interpretation and analysis of school spaces. Having selected a space that they like and a space that they don’t, in teams students will analyze the space and produce empirical data relating to each space. This data will be used to support ideation and implementation of design outcomes in the next phase of the design process.  
  • Site Storming (ideation)
Share & Compare allows students’ initial interpretation of the spaces to be validated by all the empirical data that has been collected. This is a great opportunity to fuse empirical data across curriculum areas. Students findings will begin to form the basis for a “How might we…?” question that will be used to support ideation and implementation of design outcomes in the next phase of the design process.  
  • Site-o-type (ideation/implementation)
Site-o-type allows students to create rapid prototypes that address their design solutions (“How might we…?” question).  The rapid prototype will form a part of their final concept presentation to other teams and guest experts.

Resources

Internet connection with access to Google Maps or Earth and YouTube (IDEO, Cooper Hewitt, etc).  Digital cameras to document space and record user interviews

Materials

  • Blank A3 (or larger) white butcher paper sheets
  • Pencil or pen for each student
  • Measuring tools (ie. measuring wheel, tape measures, etc.) to chart the space
  • Various presentation materials (such as colored cards, foam core and recycled materials) to develop concept posters, three-dimensional prototypes, etc.

Vocabulary

  • Empathy- the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another.
  • Audit- a methodical examination and review
  • Interpret- exercises related to research, identifying / defining the problem, developing background understanding and setting objectives
  • Ideate- exercises related to brainstorming, generating ideas and solutions to the problem, experimentation and play
  • Implement- exercises related to testing developed ideas, prototyping and communicating an end result

Procedures

Site Audit is a preliminary set of exercises designed to help students and teachers identify and interpret school spaces that students may wish to audit. The role of the user in the design process is introduced and students are scaffolded through the initial stage of the process with a focus on empathy, user needs and the importance of research. Suggested steps:
  • In teams on butcher paper, students identify and list areas of the school environment that they like as well as areas that they don’t like. Areas/space shouldn’t be defined by school rules, out-of-bounds, etc. – the whole school grounds (including points of egress and transportation hubs) should be up for consideration.
  • Once teams have developed a list, each team shares out to the main board and teacher records areas, noting frequency of some areas.
  • On a new sheet of butcher paper, each team will select one space that they like, and one space that they don’t like and conduct a Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis on each one. Teams should pick the spaces democratically; one method may be to distribute post-it notes to each student, so they can place them next to the area that they would like to review – the space with the most post-it notes being selected.
  • Once teams have completed SWOT analysis, each team will share-out their findings with the teacher recording analysis findings on main board, again noting frequency of some findings.
  • At this stage, it is suggested that a guest expert attend the class, and speak about the spaces that the students have identified, and the challenges in developing safe, productive and engaging school environments. Suggested experts could include Senior Teachers, Administration or Facilities staff.
  • Teacher introduces the role of the user in the design process. As students are the users already, they are encouraged to think about the spaces they have identified from different viewpoints (teachers, administration, facilities, students from other year levels or parents) and conduct another SWOT analysis from a different point of view. Note: ultimately, students will design a space with one user in mind – however it is a useful exercise to consider the needs of others (empathy) when designing.
  • Introduce some examples of  school spaces from other countries (Singapore, Japan, Pacific Islands, etc.). Consider similarities and differences – what might be some reasons for the difference in spaces? Note: this is a rich area of exploration and discovery for students and can be dived into in a deeper way. Students could identify cultural and historical areas of interest and explore how schools operate in these spaces. Schools could also be examined from a historical perspective – and students could research and explore how the spaces have changed over time.
Reminder on how to record for reflection/archives:
  • All research/brainstorming boards are collated into team folios.
  • Students are given opportunity to photograph/document boards digitally.
  • Students set up a group wiki or blog to record research, ideation, data collection, etc. Students update in real time and present findings progressively.
Site Mapping builds on students’ initial interpretation and analysis of school spaces. Having selected a space that they like and a space that they don’t, in teams students will analyze the space and produce empirical data relating to each space. This data will be used to support ideation and implementation of design outcomes in the next phase of the design process. Suggested steps:
  • Connections to other curriculum areas in this phase could include: English, Mathematics, History, Social Studies, Arts, Technology  and Design. If possible, “experts” (i.e. other teachers, local community members, etc.) should be brought in to support this process.
  • Teacher introduces a variety of methods for empirical data collection. These could include:
  1. Developing a set of question to interview users of identified spaces. Consider use of technology to support this process. Questions should be drafted in teams and approved by teacher.
  2. Developing a set of questions to interview an “authority” of the space with a view to identifying the history, culture or design issues of identified spaces.
  3. Charting the space (i.e. accurate blueprints, mud map, egress points, work place health & safety, etc.)
  4. Documenting the space (i.e. photography – consider panoramic imaging, videography, time lapse, sketching, etc.).
  5. Assessing the space (i.e. the volume of an area, the frequency of use, the average temperature, the length of time users spend in the space on average, etc.).
Share & Compare allows students’ initial interpretation of the spaces to be validated by all the empirical data that has been collected. This is a great opportunity to fuse empirical data across curriculum areas. Students' findings will begin to form the basis for a “How might we…?” question that will be used to support ideation and implementation of design outcomes in the next phase of the design process. Suggested step:
  • With teacher support, teams prepare collected data and share out with other groups. Teacher records data on the main board, noting frequency of some information and using data collected to validate each team’s data (and unpacking possible discrepancies in data collection i.e. time of day, what day data collected, etc.).
  • Teacher should lead class discussion on correlations between data sets and support hypothesis-making. For example, students might like to speculate about the connections between the average temperature of the space and the amount of time that users spent in the space or how the egress points affect the frequency of thoroughfare.
  • Once all data is collated, organized and unpacked, each team develops a “How might we...?” question to begin brainstorming process. A “How might we...?” should address the user, the space, and the desired outcome.
  • An example of this in a sentence is: How might we improve the student experience of using the rooftop garden? The question should be open ended and not assume the answer! An example of how not to ask this question is: How might we get more students to have fun using the rooftop garden? In that example, the outcome is assumed in the question – and doesn’t take into consideration that the users (the students) might not have fun using the rooftop garden!
  • Once teams have developed their “How might we...?” questions with support from the teacher, teams can begin the brainstorming process.
  • Here are some helpful youtube videos on how to and how not to brainstorm (more information on brainstorming from the d.School). Some general rules for brainstorming might be:
+ encourage wild ideas + defer judgement + one conversation at a time + stay focused on the topic + go for quantity (at this stage – you can refine later) + write everything down + be visual
  • Once each team has finished brainstorming, they will need to narrow down their idea. To help refine the information, the team could start to refine with three ideas from their initial brainstorming:
+ one wild idea + one practical idea + the darling
  • Once the team has narrowed it down to three ideas, they will need to choose one to prototype. If they are having trouble narrowing it down, can they combine two ideas? The process should be democratic at all times – if groups are unable to come to an agreement verbally, then consider using post-it note voting to determine the most popular choice.
  • Remember to record this process for reflection/archives through team folios, photography, group wiki or blog.
  Site-o-type allows students to create rapid prototypes that address their design solutions (“How might we …?” question).  The rapid prototype will form a part of their final concept presentation to other teams and guest experts. Suggested steps:
  • Now that each team has narrowed their design solution down to one idea, they will need to create a rapid prototype. The emphasis on the prototype should be as a proof of concept – not a working model. Where possible, everyday materials should be used to increase creative thinking and innovative design solutions (for more information on rapid prototyping, view Cooper-Hewitt’s Ready, Set, Design handout and video as well as IDEO’s Prototyping for Elmo's Monster Maker iPhone App with a giant iPhone foam-core cut-out here).
Some general rules for rapid prototyping might be: + build to think + fail early to succeed sooner + don’t fall in love with your idea + if a prototype fails are there elements you could still use? Teacher should support students in packaging and presenting their research and findings on a concept panel to support the design solutions embodied in the prototype.   Presentation
  • Guest experts and other staff, community members and other facilitators that have been involved throughout the design process should be invited back to hear the students present their design solutions. Guest should be encouraged to ask constructive questions – but try to avoid overly critiquing the design solutions. There should be no “winner” – just different design solutions.
  • Students continue to process in group wiki or blog including research, ideation, data collection, etc. Students update in real time and present findings progressively.

Assessment

There should be no “winner” – just different design solutions. Ways to assess for learning include reflection, questions, quality of documentations and presentation and general participation. Activity 1. Student questions:
  • How has your understanding of your school changed?
  • How might you improve your school space for all students?
Activity 2. Student questions:
  • How has your understanding of your space changed?
  • Were your initial assumptions about the space proved correct by the data? If not, what are the differences?
Activity 3. Student questions:
  • How has your understanding of your space changed?
  • At the start of the project, you were asked how you might improve the school space for all students. Has your answer changed or remained the same? Why?
  • Reflecting on previous research about school spaces in different places and times, how might things like climate, culture (political or societal), safety standards, etc. have affected the placement and formation of school spaces?
Activity 4. Student questions:
  • How has your understanding of your school changed?
  • How might you improve your school space for all students?

Enrichment Extension Activities

Differentiation for Elementary School: With younger students, focus the process on generating creative out-of-the-box designs for their chosen school space. How can students express their ideas using 2D drawings/paintings and 3D prototypes? Provide lots of art materials for the project, including unconventional materials such as bubble wrap, styrofoam, rubber bands or q-tips to facilitate innovative thinking. Differentiation for High School: Incorporate real-world math skills by having students draft a site map, elevation, section and floor plan of their proposed design using the empirical data they collected. Students can gain knowledge of architecture, landscape architecture, interior design and engineering careers from this exercise.

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