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Design Lab 2010

July 21, 2010
Many schools are juggling efforts to bring up test scores in math and reading while also looking for ways to develop the skills of young people in science, technology, and engineering (STEM education, if you include math).A recent Design Lab offered through the Neighborhood Learning Community in the West Side neighborhood of St. Paul, Minn., offered some fresh ideas for teachers.

“We want to give teachers some ways to integrate design practices and creative problem-solving into their lesson plans and curricula throughout the school year,” said John Comazzi a University of Minnesota architecture professor who conceived of the camp. The idea is that using hands-on approaches to teaching math and science concepts will help more kids engage, without making extra work for the teacher.
During the first week (the week-long Design Lab was repeated two times), four teachers from Cherokee Heights Elementary School participated in professional development each day before working with nearly 40 kids in grades K–5.
For young people, the goal was to design four separate gathering spaces around the West Side’s Baker Center. They worked in teams using photography, sketching, note-taking, and mind mapping to see the landscape in a new way, then developed miniature three-dimensional plans before building  physical structures using the existing landscape plus materials such as straw bales, burlap, and willow branches. During their planning they studied how different phenomena like light, wind, and sound would affect their building site.
The inaugural Design Lab was offered to young people as part of the All Around the Neighborhood summer camp. Read more in a blog by graduate student Jillian Mans.
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