Tag Archives: design

Biodesign

In the past, I have taught students about biomimicry/biomimetics, in which designers use inspiration from nature to create new products.  (The Youth Design Challenge is a great place to find resources for this.)  Biodesign takes things one step further by actually incorporating nature, often still living, into innovative artifacts that can be purely for decoration or serve specific purposes.

I first became aware of biodesign when I ran across a website for The Nest Makespace.  The unusual images on the home page intrigued me.  (I admit that I thought the “bioyarn” designs were actually made out of worms, but it turns out that it’s probably more like this material.)

The Nest Makespace offers some fascinating project ideas here.  I am hoping that more lesson plans will be linked soon.  In the meantime, you can find more suggestions on the Resource page.

For a “Peek at the Possibilities of Biodesign,” click on this link, or watch the embedded video below.

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Picture from Fernan Federici on Flickr

Make a Manifesto with Canva

As our school year begins to wind down, my 5th grade gifted students are attempting to synthesize all that they have learned by determining what they “know for sure.”  While browsing the examples on Laura Moore’s TCEA Hyperdoc website (click here for my original post about her Hyperdoc presentation), I found this “Manifesto Project.”  When I showed it to my students, they were excited about designing their own manifestos. We did a lot of brainstorming and discussion before the students started working on Canva.  The examples I am showing you are just rough drafts (including mine), but I think they are off to a great start!  Knowing the personalities of these students, I am very impressed by how the students were careful to choose words and designs that really reflect their values and beliefs.

I remarked that it might be fun to make each manifesto into a t-shirt, and the students got super excited about the idea.  So, if anyone has done something like that before, please give me suggestions in the comments below!

If you are interested in more ideas for using Canva in the classroom, here is a link to their lesson suggestions.

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Society for the Ethical Treatment of Leprechauns

A favorite project that seems to dwell in the memories of my gifted and talented students from year to year is the time they made Leprechaun Traps in Kindergarten.  It’s how I introduce our “Inventor Thinking” unit and ties in, of course, with St. Patrick’s Day.

As I introduced the project yesterday to my newest group of Kinder students, I was met with the usual enthusiasm. There was lots of excitement generated as they brainstormed ways to entice a leprechaun into their trap, and even more as they thought of ideas for ensnaring him.

And then one girl said,”What if I don’t want to trap the leprechaun?  What if I think that’s mean?”

For a moment I was speechless.  In all of my years of doing this project, none of my students have ever questioned if it was humane or not.

Interestingly, I am the person who carries spiders outdoors rather than smush them – and the person who grabbed a rat snake behind its head when it snuck into our house and flung it outside.  I yelled at my husband in the middle of the night when he grabbed a huge pair of hedge clippers to battle a rat that had snuck into the house.

The ethics of trapping leprechauns never once crossed my mind.

My friend over at Not Just Child’s Play, Joelle Trayers, provides examples like this one of ways to discuss ethics with Kindergarten students.  Yesterday was only my third meeting with my current Kinder class, so ethics had not entered into our class vocabulary yet.  However, I couldn’t miss the opportunity at this point.  After a slight pause, I said, “That’s a very good question.  What do the rest of you think?  Is it okay to trap the leprechauns or is it mean?”

Whether a coincidence or not, the issue was decided by gender.  The girls were firmly in defense of the leprechauns and the boys had no intention of being swayed from dreaming up diabolical ways to trap them.  (I have, several times, reminded the students we are “just pretending,” but that hasn’t deterred their strong feelings on the subject.)

The girls decided they are still making traps, but they are going to give the leprechauns a reward and an escape route instead of imprisoning them, especially since we will be gone for Spring Break.  The boys are more interested in how they can combine Legos with their cardboard boxes than they are about the fate of the leprechauns.

So, a word of warning to any leprechauns in the vicinity of our school in the upcoming weeks: Beware of complex Lego staircases that seem to lead to nowhere.  The boys outnumber the girls in my class, and I’m not really sure what they intend to do if you actually do fall into one of their clever contraptions.

Photo Mar 06, 8 58 47 AM

 

 

Atomic

The Kuriositas blog recently featured, “Atomic,” a short video created by students at Columbus College of Art and Design.  The students were tasked with creating animations of some of the elements on the periodic table, and this video is a compilation of some of the best.  Learning about the elements and their symbols would have been vastly more entertaining when I was in high school if I had been given a similar assignment!  In fact, there are a few elements in the video that I would swear I never heard of (dysprosium?), but now I will never forget them.

Head on over to Kuriositas to view “Atomic” for yourself.  Also, if you want more fun with the elements, augment your reality with this activity from Daqri.

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the creators of “Atomic”

Classroom Design

My latest post for Fusion, “The 7 E’s of Classroom Design,” has just been posted.  I was really inspired while I researched that particular article, and knew I needed to step it up in my own classroom. I’m still working on it, but I thought I would show you a few changes I’ve made this year.

Right now I’m working on 2 of the E’s, “Equable and Empathetic Classroom Design.”  With the trend toward flexible seating options for students, I started hunting for some alternatives to the hard plastic chairs in my classroom.  I also aimed for a 3rd E, “Economical,” because, well, I’m a teacher…

I found a $19 rug at Walmart, as well as some $10 end tables and a $20 coffee table.  The coffee table and rug serve as a sit-on-the-floor area for the kids.

Some of my favorite scores were storage ottomans.  Big Lots had some ottoman benches for $30 that I purchased, and I found a set of 3 cube ottomans on Wayfair for $50.

I visited Goodwill 3 times, and have been scouring Craigslist every night for some other wish list items (like a faux leather futon).  So far, that hasn’t been successful, but I’m not giving up.

I went way out of budget (okay, I’m lying – I didn’t really give myself a budget) with the bar stools, but the pair was on sale for $120.  I tried to make up for that splurge by making my  own “bistro” table.  I used a tall set of plastic storage drawers and a piece of drywall we used last year for Sphero painting.  I taped duct tape on the drywall to class it up (maybe that’s not your definition of classy, but it looks better than the drywall ), and then taped a laminated mandala on the top for the kids to decorate.  To make the front look more “table-y” I velcroed two of my $10 end tables together.  We can still access the drawers on the back when needed, but I put stuff-we-don’t-use-too-often in there.

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In the corner, I put the huge executive desk I inherited when I first moved into the classroom, which has a pretty handy glass overlay that was perfect for the new world map I placed underneath.

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Since I teach pull-out gifted and talented classes, most of my groups are not very large.  But I was teaching a 5th grade enrichment class last week to a full crowd, and let them test out the new seating area after we went over some expectations (such as, “don’t twirl around in the bar stools even though that’s a very fun thing to do and we all know that it’s extremely tempting).

5th graders using our new seating area

The students did great.  No one fought over seating and they immediately got to work on their projects.  It was pretty amazing to watch.

As I mentioned, the makeover is not finished.  I still have a few more E’s to cover.  The students will be helping me with some of those, so I’ll post those pics as we complete more of the project.

The Myth of Average

I was reading a book by Ken Robinson the other day that reminded me of this video.  I knew I had posted the video on my blog at some point, but didn’t realize that it was three years ago.  It definitely bears making an encore appearance.

In this TEDx Talk by Todd Rose, you will hear the astounding story of how the Air Force discovered that designing for the “average” pilot can be debilitating.

Apply this to schools, as Todd Rose does, and you can see why – by trying to help the greatest numbers, we end up helping the least.

The video is 18 minutes long, but well worth watching all of the way through.

Design to the Edges

Back to School – Designed by Students

How cool is this?!!!! Staples collaborated with students at The Ron Clark Academy to design brand new school supplies.  The pupils went through the Design Process to create products that are useful and appealing.  You can see the students presenting their ideas in the video below.

Here is a link to the full list of student-designed products that can now be found on the shelves and online at Staples.  I am so impressed with the ingenuity of these students, and wish I had some of these items when I was attending school!  If you have a child shopping for the brand new year, consider purchasing one of these great supplies.  And, if you are a teacher, consider the value of allowing students to come up with an idea and see it through to a conclusion where it impacts people in the real world.

Floating Locker Shelves designed by students at the Ron Clark Academy and available at Staples
Floating Locker Shelves designed by students at the Ron Clark Academy and available at Staples
Portable Desk designed by students at The Ron Clark Academy - available for purchase at Staples
Portable Desk designed by students at The Ron Clark Academy – available for purchase at Staples