Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Design Thinking our school courtyard

Holy wow, I never actually published this! We're now 6 months into construction, and it's floating along excellently! I have a great view out my classroom window and none of my walls are being impacted by the construction... best of both worlds. Some of my poor colleagues...

--------------------- Written back in February 2014 ------------------------

We're breaking ground this summer on a huge new addition, which is particularly tough for a small campus in a tight residential area!  We don't have huge tracts of land.  Much is already set in stone by our architects, but our central campus courtyard will undergo a great renovation, including removing a small central building we call "The Cabin." This opens up exciting opportunities to redesign to better meet our community's needs!

Four colleagues and I led a fun all-faculty meeting to practice using the design thinking mindset in re-thinking this beautiful space on our campus.  You can find our slide deck for the activity here.

(1) We started with a great energizer - Zip Zap Zoom!  The whole faculty gathered in the paved area of the existing courtyard, and we had a rousing laughing game for about 5 minutes.

(2) We distributed mini white boards and dry-erase markers, and invited everyone to spend some time wandering the courtyard recording personal observations: What is important and special about this place?  What are the feelings we want this place to elicit?  What could be added to keep these feelings?  Our colleagues wandered - some in small groups and some independently - and shared stories from the courtyard and feelings about the different features.  I noticed some benches in a low-elevation area of our courtyard for the first time!

(3) We came back inside to the learning commons and gathered at small-group tables to share those observations and brainstorm.  Everyone wrote out their thoughts - one per post-it note - and shared them on a group butcher paper sheet.

Brainstorming and Sharing

(4) Finally, each teacher received a modified drawing of the plans for the new space, showing the new building outlines, the large older trees, and a few existing features.  For the remainder of the faculty meeting, my colleagues drew, colored, and sculpted with Play-dough.

Drawing and Sculpting

(5) We're still in the share, prototype, refine phases now... All of the teachers' drawings are on display in the treehouse (the teachers' lounge... no, it's not really a treehouse), and we have both post-it notes and sticky dots on hand for everyone to comment on each other's brilliant ideas.  In a few weeks, some ideas with a lot of traction will be delivered to our architects.

Teacher designs on display

What about the kids?

Well, of course the kids are participating too!  Our faculty meeting was intended both to gather teacher input AND as a model for teachers to lead their students through re-thinking the courtyard.  Many classes have already spent time observing and brainstorming, and a few have created drawings.  Each class - 3-year-old preschoolers through 14-year-old 8th graders - will deliver their favorite ideas to the student council, who will also choose a few ideas to deliver to the architects.

7th and 2nd grade buddies brainstorming

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