Empowering Teens through Design Education
What are the real benefits of design education for teens?
This presentation overviews a design education partnership with 6th, 7th and 8th graders, at George Washington Carver Elementary School in Cleveland, Ohio. Completed June 2010, the 12-session course explored user-centered design through architecture. It was developed and taught by Larissa Itomlenskis, interaction designer, and Drew McKeown, architect. The collaboration was made possible through the organization and support of the nonprofit Progressive Arts Alliance.
Our main challenge was to make design accessible, fun, and relevant. We began with a discussion on how good design solves problems. As introduction, students were challenged to imagine how various user groups (examples included: samurais, NBA stars, snow boarders, or elderly people) might react within different environments (examples included: the moon, a monster truck rally, or an active volcano).
Our goal was to empower students to build a final project they were passionate about. Students explored problems they wanted to solve, and translated their brainstorming into a unique building design. They created floorplans, used Google SketchUp software to build 3D models, and created presentations explaining how their design affected target user groups. Student concepts were diverse and examples include education centers, recreation centers, sport training facilities, dream houses, clothing boutiques, a homeless shelter, and a retirement home for NFL players. The course had great success improving tech literacy, collaboration, hands-on problem solving, math comprehension, basic entrepreneurial skills, and self-confidence.
This presentation is tailored for designers interested in community outreach, educators, and social advocates. We'll overview how the course was structured, and offer techniques for have students participate in the teaching process, visual learning versus tactile learning, and creating a positive environment for critique and collaboration. Examples of student process work and final designs will be shown. In an atmosphere focused on standardized tests, offers an outlet for teens to be creative and address the problems important to them. The talk promises to be interactive, calling on the audience to explore the core of why they are passionate about design and what skills they might want to share with young people.
More about Larissa Itomlenskis
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