In their recent unit, Grade 9 Design students have been looking at developing recreational community spaces in any ever-evolving world. As the pandemic continues to change our interactive environment, some of the questions the students are tackling include:
- How is a recreational space built up out of different perspectives?
- Could we unite communities and perspectives through collaboration?
- How does the goal of ‘recreation serving to improve mental and physical wellbeing’ look in different communities?
“The idea is to design spaces that can meet a lot of varied user needs, and are flexible”, FIS Director of EdTech, Allen Lindblad, explains.
Mr. Lindblad has worked with the students on a wide range of ideas for the project, from more traditional recreational playgrounds to chairs with inbuilt WiFi and shared experiences on connected screens. Technology was only a focus in a few projects, but for most teens, this was a huge draw to these spaces. So the students could demonstrate that they had used the known interests of their target audience and adapted the space to match those interests.
Some of the students developed transformative equipment/spaces that could be used one way and could shift into something else as required. Mr. Lindblad cites an example: “A student designed a ski park, which could be used as a mountain biking area in the summer, the goal being to utilize the same space year round.”
The problem statement was deliberately kept open-ended, so the students could have sufficient creative flexibility to design. This resulted in a large assortment of very different kinds of projects. While one design supported mobile trailers for the homeless, another included roof gardens to introduce more green space within a confined area.
Part of the goal was also that the Design students needed to specify three audience groups that their space catered to. While some chose demographic elements like age, the others considered a skill level like fitness. They also had spaces that looked at serving a purpose, for example, a play area for younger kids, or a place for families to get together. “We talked about a number of different ways to look at a target audience that didn’t just have to be things like age and gender but could go beyond,” Mr. Lindblad says.
Talking about some of the challenges the students faced during this exercise, Mr. Lindblad points to the task of reconciling the initial idea with the final outcome. “While putting together a prototype of a designed space, we have to examine scale models, see how much area really is there, how much material we’d need, and how to recreate within these constraints but still get across the intended message,” he describes a common problem in design. “It’s always the hands-on work, anticipating the time frames, and being able to let go of what you originally wanted in your design if needed.”
Of course, these challenges necessitate preliminary analysis and laying the groundwork. “We begin with research and building a solid foundation on how the design cycle works. And this ability to investigate and critically review is a valuable skill for any student,” Mr. Lindblad proffers.
Another transferable skill the Design students can aim to acquire through this project is accepting (and working on) feedback. In the final part of the evaluation cycle, the students had to come up with their own testing methods that would generate data to look at the success of their projects. Additionally, after preparing their 3D printed models, the students opened the floor to audiences including Primary School as well as local businesses in the area. Based on the feedback, the students were required to make changes to their original design. “This was especially nice this year because there were no Covid restrictions that limited our physical interaction with other classes, so students were able to make connections with the larger community.” Mr. Lindblad reflects on how the exercise falls in with the larger goals of the FIS pedagogy.