Sustainable Design in Schools


When I first started working as a Design teacher, I was so excited by all the projects and opportunities I was going to have making with my students. I started to thinking about SUSTAINABILITY without even really thinking about the term in two ways:

  1. How will we manage materials and waste responsibly?
  2. How can I give students’ opportunities for open-ended client based projects when I only saw them for a year or a semester, but manage the sustainability of good projects?

 
And even after ten years, still don’t have answers, but it still something I continue to think about and work on as an educator and facilitator. No matter what school you are at, this is usually an issue, but it’s not something that is frequently discussed or solved easily.

First, let’s think about the question with the clearest answer:
How can we manage materials and waste responsibly?
Originally, I thought maybe I could use primarily recycled or upcycled materials.  I think this can be done with balance.  It is hard to create high quality products with old cardboard boxes and old food containers. School communities are great at collecting materials, but then Design/Maker labs quickly turned into a trash heap on one side. We also created more trash with the trash in some instances.  Some of the products would definitely not be used.
As international teachers, we move around frequently, and often do not have the language acquisition for procuring materials.  Or the budgets nor time to be really picky.  I would love to know the source of all my materials and be able to use high quality, sustainable, ethically and realistic for my budget.
As many of us have realized… there is no answer.  It is a balance of upcycling/recycling, and ordering ethical and sustainable materials.  We have started recycling our own plastics at ISB, using the Precious Plastic model, which has been a great asset to our design program. I do wonder how I can find out more about the origins of my products and educate our community more on local sustainable products.
Now, on to the second part of sustainability in school projects:
How can we give students’ opportunities for open-ended, authentic, client based projects and manage the sustainability of those projects and products?
This is more difficult to answer.  I am constantly trying to figure out this one.  Frequently, students come up with great ideas for projects that could truly solve an authentic problem in our community, but once that student leaves the class or the school, that project is often dropped.  Sometimes I’ll try to suggest to the student that he/she should create a “sustainability plan” for example: create a club to continue the work that’s needed…
Sometimes a younger student will pick up the project…
And sometimes, I’ve just got to let it go, no matter how great it is.
In Design, a high quality product is desirable and we want kids to achieve that, but the reality is the process and the learning that goes into design thinking is most important.  Maybe those students continue the work at a new school, new community, or even at university.  I will never know, but there’s hope.  If nothing else, I hope that our students continue to use design thinking to address issues, identify problems and seek opportunities in all areas of their lives.
In many design thinking frameworks and processes, there is a part of the reflection piece where students need to consider the impact of the project/product on themselves, others, the environment and be reflective on their social, emotional and economic impact of their project, especially for them to imagine their product going to mass market.  This is essential in our teaching and our Design classrooms, no matter the project.
As international teachers, our students are the future leaders, businessmen/businesswomen, and parents of the next generation.  I hope they always consider their impact as they design and create new businesses, products and solutions to problems that may not even exist yet.
So is this something we need to put more at the forefront of our teaching as Design Teachers?  If we are not teaching it, who is, especially in such a hands-on way?
Should we always be looking at the sustainability and impact of the project, even as young as elementary school?
I think, yes.
 

OneDay 2017

At ISB, OneDay is a day in which middle school students can design their learning.  OneDay gives students the time to follow their passions and individually personalize their learning for the day.  Teachers facilitated the process throughout the month of January during homeroom Mentoring time to help students follow the ISB Design Process to create a goal, investigate, design their day and plan.

It is amazing to walk around the middle school on OneDay as students take learning into their own hands.  They were engaged on the sports fields and gyms,

in the kitchen,

in the band rooms,

art rooms,

makerspaces,

hovered around laptops collaborating

and were nestled in cubbies as they typed fan fiction.

 
We want to continue to improve OneDay and will work on a feedback session with middle school teachers in an upcoming faculty meeting.  Please feel free to add any suggestions in the comments.
I’d also love the idea of a OneDay as a PD model.  It would be difficult for me to decide what I would do that day, but I think it’d be a good exercise for teachers to take ownership of their own learning and also experience what the students did as they prepare for OneDay.
For more OneDay projects, check out the ISB OneDay Blog.

Learning to Learn with a MakerSpace

I found this great blog post about MakerSpaces. Please have a read and write your comments below.

Making, Maker Centred Learning and STEAM fit neatly alongside Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) for many schools. Commonly this approach includes a constructivist view of knowledge and teachers seek to establish conditions which allow students to explore questions and ideas with greater independence than may occur in the traditional classroom.  Learning becomes a collaborative partnership between teachers and students with a clear focus on a learner centric approach. These core beliefs are enacted through a combination of scaffolds such as those developed from the research of Harvard’s ‘Project Zero’ where cultural forces, thinking routines, and an awareness of habits of mind focus the learner’s efforts on developing positive dispositions for learning while building deep understandings. In such an approach to learning Making becomes a pathway to developing the dispositions required for success in the 21st Century and a way of demonstrating one’s competence within a creative and collaborative environment.
This philosophy of teaching and learning has significant implications for the nature of inquiry and Making in schools. Student projects are developed as responses to the problems, wonderings and questions which result from the student led inquiry process. The long-term goal is that students become effective and tenacious problem finders and solvers and this requires that students have a sufficient degree of freedom to identify the problems and subsequent projects which they explore within the necessary constraints of the curriculum. Success in this goal is indicated by the degree of autonomy evident in the student’s projects; the deviation from the norm present in each response and the variety of processes used in achieving a final solution. This brings challenges in terms of resources, project management, time-frames, lesson planning, assessment and evaluation. For teachers with experience in a traditional classroom each of these challenges require an adjustment to not only how they teach (pedagogy) but to how they perceive and value what they teach (curriculum) and significantly the place that assessment has in the teaching/learning cycle. This shift most critically requires teachers to place greater value on the processes of learning (the capacity for empathy, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity their students develop) rather than the product produced or the knowledge retained. This is made increasingly difficult given the current quantitative assessment and accountability frame through which educators, schools and systems are evaluated.
A MakerSpace brings with it new affordances and this is reflected in the projects undertaken by students. The most significant use of the space that I share with my teaching team thus far has been that associated with the Year Six, ‘Personal Passion Projects’. In this, students are given time across a semester to develop a project that extends their interest in a personal passion. Many of the projects undertaken included an aspect of making as a way of concluding the project and sharing a solution to a problem defined through the initial planning phases of the project; the ‘Why?’, ‘What if?’ and ‘How might?’ questions that students started with. The diversity of Maker Centred projects undertaken was significant and included items of furniture, mixed material artworks, clothing/fashion projects, sporting equipment, instruments, games/toys and basic electronics. With this diversity came the use of a wide range of materials, processes, tools and subsequent skill development.
This diversity shone a light on the challenges to pedagogy, curriculum and assessment identified above which result when students are given autonomy in their pursuit of inquiry based learning but this was largely overcome by measuring the success of each project against the broader skills which were involved. In each case the student projects offered clear evidence of learning associated with project management, problem solving, application of a design process, attention to detail, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication. Teachers quickly found that they became ‘insiders’ with students on the projects and from this perspective as co-learners and collaborators a very clear view of the learning that was achieved by each student was evident. In many respects the Maker Centred Learning environment is an opportunity to make visible the student’s ability to take charge of the inquiry process and all that it entails from initial ideation to concluding performance of understanding.
Parallel to the development of the ‘Makerspace’ has been the enhancements made to the ‘Media Lab’. While the Makerspace supports projects which are large and messy, the Media Lab caters for projects which are born out of digital explorations and designs. The addition of two 3D Printers to this space and a campus wide subscription to Makers’ Empire has allowed Year Five students to include a maker aspect to their study of ‘Space Exploration’. Using the Makers’ Empire students design vehicles and environments that reflect their understanding of the challenges of exploring other worlds. The designs are 3D printed and students use these as they explain their research and understanding to an audience of parents and peers. A similar process was undertaken by Year Six students who used the software to create models of great buildings from the cities they studied in Term Three. In this instance the technology was supporting student understanding of mathematical concepts such as 3D Shape, scale and ratio. Two laser cutters are also available and it is hoped they will play a larger part in Making projects throughout 2017 as students explore options for the accurate cutting and engraving of lightweight materials with CNC accuracy.
Working with younger students, the level of scaffolding required for effective learning increases and with this the degree of autonomy offered seemingly decreases. Working with sticks, leaves, soil and recycled cardboard, students in Year Four have explored the construction of houses from the Australia of the mid to late 1800s. The use of common materials and methods resulted in projects with many common elements and presentation. Looking more closely and listening to students explain their designs and the processes they used reveal that even here students have brought individuality to the projects and achieved varied learning goals. Bringing Making to the younger years as an introduction to Maker Centred Learning, Design Thinking and as an extension of existing models for ‘play’ with loose and found materials should serve to strengthen what students are capable of producing as they move into Stage Three and beyond.
A current limitation to the projects undertaken in the Makerspace is that created by the knowledge, skills, imagining and comfort level of the teachers and students using it. Presently there is a bias towards projects which use timber and associated construction methods; advanced craft projects with additional tools and jointing methods. Some projects extend this into the use of plastics and composite materials (fiberglass) and there is some limited exploration of electronics including the use of ‘Littlebits’. This bias results from a variety of factors but most notably from teacher expertise and familiarity and the influence that early starters have on the projects which other students subsequently mimic. This bias has been identified and efforts will be made in 2017 to broaden teacher understandings of the sort of projects which can be attempted in the hope that this filters into the ideas explored by students. Late in 2016 the Year Six teaching team attended a workshop offered by ICT Educators NSW on the use of Arduino boards and other forms of physical computing within Maker Centred Learning as an evaluation and initial exploration of this for inclusion in student projects throughout 2017. While this offers new possibilities and would allow Making to move into new areas such as Internet of Things (IOT), data harvesting and automation it brings with it a need for greater professional development and new costs in providing suitable development boards and ancillary equipment.
The question of how to fund Maker Centred Learning in schools requires consideration. The materials used in many cases cannot be re-used and in essence become the property or valued trash of the students. Particularly where students are not creating the same product, where they are using widely differing materials, and where they may require relatively expensive materials the question of how this is to be funded cannot be easily answered. Providing a pool of resources to be used is a partial solution but ensuring equitable access to this brings new difficulties. Equity issues are exacerbated when the quality of the finished work is a consequence of the materials to which the student has access and even though teachers are evaluating the processes and thinking behind the product the final display is judged by its audience as an amalgamation of inputs both human and physical.
In looking for evidence of successful STEAM and Maker Centred Learning projects in the wider community there is evidence that many schools are not offering students significant autonomy in how they respond to or develop design challenges. While there are interesting projects being undertaken, the final results often have a very similar look and feel. Instead of an inquiry process driven by student questions, that results in a diversity of ideas, the projects on show resemble colour by number artworks where the real thinking and learning occurred before the students become involved. It is also disappointing to note that very few of the STEAM projects involve the unique DNA of each discipline. Rather than a rich intermingling of ideas revealed by a multitude of lenses, STEAM projects can frequently be typified as amusing technology or simple engineering projects. An important goal for the Maker Movement and STEAM will be to ensure student projects are driven by student ideas and require them to embrace the values and value of each discipline under the unifying umbrella of STEAM.
 
By Nigel Coutts

Make Something!

I’ve always been interested to see how far students could take their imagination if they were given the resources to do so. As we move towards our L21 goals, I’ve been reading up on Maker Space and the different Maker environments to see what there is out in the world, here in China, and right here at ISB.
IMG_0004Michael Gorman talks about some of the reasons that our students should be “making” something in our classrooms. As we move towards a Project Based Environment in our schools, some of these “maker” skills can be applied to these projects as well as incorporate STEM skills.  Maker students can envision, plan, play, innovate, collaborate their projects in the most creative ways. Given the space and resources to do so, we can see students learning with their experiments in their original and creative ways to make their ideas into a reality.

Some points that Michael makes about positive outcomes of Maker students include:

  • Provide for student opportunities to enhance Project, Problem, Design, Inquiry, and Challenge Based Learning
  • Introduce students to the iterative process for problem solving
  • Promote service student learning by identify and inventing solutions to local and world problems
  • Introduce students to the iterative process for problem solving

For the past couple summers, there have been Maker Faires in Shenzhen, China’s “Silicon Valley”. This exposed many local and international groups especially in education to include some sort of Maker opportunities and emphasis in their schools.  Randy Stadham has gone to the last two Maker Faires and has been leading the Grade 4 in making robots for competition.
In Middle School, Randy Williams and Steve Sostak have their own “Baby Maker Space” up in rooms 3122 and 3123  and have been creating all sorts of projects in their lab . Students learn a skill and then create in Open Make.
I was also part of a group of students that presented some of their Maker projects as part of the Middle School Global Issues Network(GIN) Conference in Singapore this past May. Students were able to tie their ideas into a sustainable COMPASS education model.
Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 14.36.42
My curiosity has led to see  that we are part of a growing, great, creative, collaborative, and awesome Maker Movement here at ISB.
Further readings and ideas for activities:
http://makezine.com/
http://www.instructables.com/
http://www.inventtolearn.com/
https://www.clarity-innovations.com/blog/sberry/five-ways-bring-maker-education-your-classroom
Post by: Pim Arora

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