Sunday, March 4, 2018

March 4 - Meaningful Making



Meaningful Making -  Our 4th post in March is for Making Series (30 post in 30 days of inspiration from our #makered community)


Last year I had the pleasure of visiting Michael Pope's classroom at Barre Town Middle & Elementary School and left  in awe!   BTMES scored big time when they recruited Michael Pope back to his home school.   After completing his Masters degree in Learning, Design, and Technology at Stanford and spending a few years working in the design industry,  Michael came back home to the classroom he had spent his middle school years in.  He  used his experience and his strong belief in student directed learning to design a program and space that is worthy of its name - THE DESIGN LAB!















After spending an hour in The Design Lab, it was easy to see the different ways both the space and the program were purposedly designed to support its three main goals.

  1. DESIGN = PROCESS: Enable students to understand and explore design as a universally applicable problem solving process and way of thinking
  2. LEARNING THROUGH FAILURE: Allow students to embrace risk & failure as learning mechanisms
  3. MEANINGFUL MAKING: Facilitate student engagement with meaningful challenges


Considering Michael's time at  Stanford, it is no surprise that he uses design thinking to guide students through the  process for problem solving as they create and make.  He "does not expect them to leave his program as master carpenters, draftsmen, engineers, or artist, but he does expect them to leave as better thinkers. "
Michael does not consider himself the leader in the class.  He does not want to lead everyone through a series of projects that he has designed.  He, instead, sees himself as a facilitator, cheerleaders, and a resources for student directed learning.     

"By choosing their own projects, students explore the topics that they find most meaningful.  When students direct their own projects, they learn through their failures and their triumphs."



Although students get to select their own projects,  Michael guides that process to ensure that students select a meaningful project.  

Michael describes a meaningful project as one that 
  • Solves a problem
  • Helps us when we need it
  • Benefits others
  • Completes an objective that it was designed for
  • Reminds you of something important
  • Has personal meaning
  • Evokes emotion
  • Looks nice
  • Takes effort to make
  • Is something you want to do
  • Help with daily problems

The projects can be personal projects or public projects.   

  • Personal projects might be a skill based project where a student focuses on acquiring a new skill or master an existing skill.    
  • Personal projects might also be  message based projects that allow a student to express a specific message
  • Public projects are usually projects that solve a need or provide a service. 

As part of their project selection process,  students are asked to consider several elements that will guide them through the meaningful making journey ahead. 




The space and tools in the Design Lab provide students with the a wide variety of resources they might need in their meaningful making journey. 

It's obvious that the BTMES Design Lab is a great space. 


Although I must say that both times I've visited the Design Lab,   I've have to navigate my way around so many projects in progress that I didn't even realize the floor was white! 

Micheal's Design Lab program  inherited the wood shop tools that he had used as a student in his days as a student. 



Michael has  expanded the toolset to include some affordable and accessible tools such as sewing machines and a vinyl/paper cutter. 


And with funds secured from forward thinking school leaders, he was able to add some design and  prototyping tools including an Epilog laser cutter, Lulzbot 3D printer, and the  Carvey CNC mill.



 
 giphy.gif giphy.gif giphy.gif


But probably the tool that most impressed me was the project board he used to help his students manage the process of their learning  through meaningful making of their individually selected projects. 


As Micheal describes how his students use the board, it is easy to see that the thoughtful design of a masterful teacher is at work in this space! 







The shift from a series of projects designed by the teacher to help students master proficiency to one where student meet standards and  proficiencies over time by designing and making their own projects is one that requires thoughtful and strategic planning.  Michael is continuously working on and tweaking the process and has provided such a helpful model for the #vted and  #makered community on how to design meaningful making experiences.



It's easy to understand why so many students frequently  find their way back to this space to  work on their Design Lab projects as well as projects for other classes.   

The students at  Barre Town Middle and Elementary are so fortunate to have the Design Lab  (a program and a space) that puts them at the center of their learning.  Thank you, Micheal Pope for sharing your practice and resources with us and for the role you play in your students' lives.