Turning Teachers into Makers


Every once in a while I have an idea that comes off better than expected and last Thursday’s Pop-up Resource Village Workshop we did with the teachers and students of 5 Keys Charter School and Asian Neighborhood Design( AND) was definitely one of them. I can’t remember a time I had more fun at work.  For this workshop, I thought we might sidestep the old qualitative interviewing and observing and get all the users to build a full size model of the project. In this case, a bus turned into a classroom.


With the assistance of John Cothran ( our construction leader and instructor) and several former and current AND students we managed to build a floor and drill together the kit of parts needed to assemble the mock up in just  a few hours.


The agenda for the day was to talk about critical aspects of design for consideration, then break into groups and work with architects to design a section of the bus. Myself, John, and two of my amazing volunteers Jason and Abigail led those groups in order to help participants tap into their innate design knowledge.


It apparently worked because when we all arrived in the workshop together I had never seen such enthusiasm and creative ideas coming to life so quickly.

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With utility knives, cardboard, fabric, papers, glue guns and drills a space for learning came together that included technology lounges, welcome areas and sections that popped out to provide even more space. They added supportive signage to the interior and exterior not forgetting to include plants, lighting, and furnishings.  Frankly, I could not keep up with them nor had I provided all the necessary tools for them to manifest the scope of their ideas. Stairs for rooftop access and space to design exterior environments were ideas they had to describe even if they could not build it.

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In addition to all that students and teachers we were fortunate to have filmmaker Richard O’Connell and his colleague there to record the experience for their documentary “The Corridor”. They were very stealth amidst the creative chaos although I am not sure how they managed.


While it took a bit of time to plan and prep, it was more than worth it.  I still have to do some more traditional interviews before we begin design but I will do it with a smile on my face as I remember one 5 Keys teacher holding up two pieces of scrap cardboard and telling her partner  “Hey Sherman! These will be perfect for the built in side table book shelves!”

Honestly, I would never have thought of that.

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