Thursday, November 6, 2014

Redefining the Bird House

Recently I met with one of our second grade teachers, +Jennifer Cheung, to redesign a performance task for a unit on animal habitats. We were inspired by the birdhouse project mentioned in the SparkTruck movie and decided to expand it for her class (You can see our learning plan below.) It's been an interesting project so far. Next week we begin the "Prototype" phase and our student teams will build their proposed birdhouses out of cardboard. I can’t wait to see what what they come up with.

The addition of the second T-Wall in our Maker Space made it possible to have a full class ideating at the same time. Jen's class used the space several times to brainstorm their bird habitats and I couldn't be happier about how it worked. The T-Walls really contribute to collaborative brainstorming and make ideation sing. But the best part of the maker space is not the T-Wall; it’s the design thinking process developed by the Stanford The stuff in the space is useful, but it’s the process that’s changing pedagogy. 

Here's how we broke the process down:

Empathize (Done in the Classroom and at home)
“How do the birds in our area interact with their habitat?”
Observe the birds outside of the classroom and at home.  What types of birds do you see?  What are the birds doing?

Define (Done in the Classroom)
“What does a bird need to be comfortable in a habitat?”
What do the birds need to do what they are doing? Do these birds need special things?

Ideate (Done in the Maker Space)
“How might we build a comfortable habitat for these birds?”
Use “T-Walls” to brainstorm in teams.  Don’t yet explain the constraints of the project so as not to discourage “moonshot” thinking.  Have teams talk through their ideas. At the end, engage in “Considered Selection.” Each team member gets a graphic organizer with three columns: "Most Practical," "Most Exciting," and "Most Unusual." Team members write one choice for each category on the organizer. This becomes a way to vote as a team.

Prototype (Done in the Maker Space)
This is where the teams discover that there are constraints to the project.  Each team gets a square of cardboard (1.5 feet by 1.5 feet?), string, and duct tape to make the bird house. Teams will have safety cardboard cutters, hole punchers, and scissors. Teachers will help with a hot glue gun, and string. In fact - I’m thinking about getting Flex Seal to coat them. (As seen on TV!)

The Birdhouses are hung on the tree and the class will observes how the birds interact with them during the year. If time allows, Perhaps students will redesign the houses after several months of observation for fidelity to the design thinking process.