Sunday, April 23, 2017

Why I #Edcamp

My name is Andrea Kornowski and I might have an addiction to edcamps.  Edcamps are unquestionably some of the best professional development and professional learning opportunities that exist for educators.  I can't imagine a learning opportunity that is more collaborative or more personalized.  Each time I go to an edcamp I usually have a session in mind to propose that aligns with the work that I am currently doing and work that I am interested in engaging in (the near future).

It wasn't until #EdcampELM that I was questioned:  "Why do you continue to attend so many edcamps and maintain such a willingness to share?"  

Truthfully, I feel a professional obligation in my heart to attend for the following reasons: 

a: To support my own personal and professional learning.

b: To help support the learning of others. 

c. It's what's best for kids.


And for those reasons, I am ALL IN.  If I didn't go to edcamps my thinking wouldn't be challenged and neither would the learning or ideas of others.  As educators we have so much to share that has the potential to support or inspire the work of other educators.


That is truly where I get my professional passion and obligation to attend.  


Another benefit of attending is the relationships that you form.  There are a considerable number of members of my PLN that have become more than just acquaintances and help hold me accountable in both my personal and professional life.  

I also recently realized this with my grad school experience.  I would say that my biggest takeaway from my first full year of grad school is: 


"Going back to school holds a greater purpose than just my learning. It's about impact; doing all that I can to impact those around me."  -@andreakornowski


I have found that is my professional obligation as an educator to both challenge and support the ideas of others within our online discussion board and have even gone the lengths of being told that the support I provide feels like I am one of my classmates' building coaches.  Lately the most controversial topics that I have had to challenge are thoughts around the difficulty of reassessments, traditional grading practices, and the grading of homework.  Truthfully this might take some extra time by creating additional responses (above and beyond the two required each week) but I feel that is truly what is best for kids and our educational systems.

This past weekend I attended my 33rd #edcamp (which doesn't include any of the other unconferences and edcamps that I've attended (as as result of conferences that I've participated in) or hosted.  I'm really glad that I was able to attend this one in particular because it was very heavily attended by teachers from the host district and one of the benefits of an edcamp is being able to elicit an outside perspective.  I feel like I did the right thing by attending; taking a few hours out on my Saturday for a drive and participation.  I also think I might have walked away with inspiration for a future Google Innovator Academy application.  More to come at a future date...

A Challenge to myself and to YOU:  Next time you attend an #edcamp, be sure to invite a friend or two.  You'll never know the impact that it might have on their career or their students.


EdcampMadWI 2017 Crew


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Hitting the Ground Running...Quite Literally #Accountability #Oneword2017

As I sit down to write this post, Don't Stop Believin' by Journey came on the Pandora station I was listening to in the background.  I'm not sure that there could have been a more appropriate song to describe this journey because it was made entirely possible by BELIEVING.  This year I committed myself to following some of my personal passions, goals, and bucket list items that I have established which is why I chose my #oneword for 2017 to be "Accountability."  While I have a list of accountability items, this post focuses on one that I wanted to highlight.

Last year I was well on this journey personally with running until I took a significant spill on the sidewalk and sidelined myself for about 5 weeks of healing.  Don't worry, I saved my phone.  I also might have told my summer school students that I was being chased by a Pokemon (this was just about the time that Pokemon Go had come out) and when I turned around to see which one, I ate it. It appears that the city had plans for this section of sidewalk, as three weeks later the city ripped up that section of sidewalk and replaced it.  I could have been defeated and given up running altogether, but the pirate in me used this as an opportunity to springboard and provide me the passion to move forward.

My first goal became to successfully finish a 5k Series.  Prior to falling, I was on my way to training for a 10k in the fall. When I first started running, I had no confidence.  I was afraid of running around others and I was afraid of failing.  That's when I wrote the post:  Failing By Fear Isn't An Option, the story of my first 5k race.

This winter, after a conversation with a colleague at work, I made the leap.  I had seen a lot of posts from friends on Facebook over the years and I felt it was time for me to try to succeed at something that I wasn't genetically programmed to do, something that I would have to work hard to accomplish.  Late at night one night (with no one awake to confer with) I was looking at my options for series races and it just happened.  I committed myself to the Chilly Willy 5k Series which was a series consisting of 6- 5k races around the area during the WINTER in Wisconsin which is unquestionably my least favorite time of the year!  The only reason I go out in the winter is for work, #edcamp, social events, and to go to the gym.  In addition to those races, along the way I decided to add on two additional races outside of the series, and all of the training that came along with at the gym.

Sunday marked the completion of the first phase of this journey.  I discovered through this experience that I was not born to run, but I have passion.  Each race was about doing the best that I could at the time (very much like how we encourage our learners to take on challenges in the classroom).  I didn't PR in this series, but each time I knew I ran my best race and this is only the start.  Upon the completion of one series, I signed up for a 7- race trail run series with options for distance at (5k, 10k, or half marathon).  I know what you're thinking....trails?  Yes, I'm going to have to be a lot more careful than I was on the sidewalks!  In June I'm also signed up for an 8k, with the hopes of tackling my first 10k either through this series or by fall.  My ultimate dream is running the Princess Half Marathon at Disney.  We'll see where the chips fall, if that's something that gets accomplished in 2018 or maybe 2019?  I have learned through this experience that if you have passion and are willing to work hard that you can do anything, even if you were not born with the skill.  Running has never felt more comfortable. Besides the spill I took last July, I have been injury free and running strong.  I appreciate all of the support that all of you have given me in this journey.  I am anxiously waiting the next phase to begin this weekend!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Let It Go: 13 Things to Consider When Personalizing Learning

My most EPIC FAILURE TO DATE in the classroom was my first experience with our classroom fish tank.  I inherited the river flow fish tank the day I started teaching AP Environmental Science.  The first year our class was content with setting it up and maintaining live plants in it.  For our learners the second year, that wasn't enough.  They spoke and they wanted live critters in the tank.  I took their input seriously and that's when I started to research.  This was my FIRST mistake.  Why was I the one doing the research? 




Before making a decision on how to proceed, I went to various fish stores and had conversations with the employees that worked there.  I must have spent hours doing this.  My SECOND mistake; I didn't allow the learners to own this project.  Looking back, I bet some of the learners in our classroom knew more than some of the people I was talking to at the fish stores.   Finally, I thought I had it.  I secured a small heater and my sister and I went on a Saturday to pick up the critters.  My THIRD mistake:  Why was I the one picking out the critters for the tank?  We decided to go back and add a few more and we thought we were all good to go.  Little did we realize, we already had to perform a rescue as one of the black molly fish got stuck in a plant as it flowed downstream.  I'm sure you can sense where this is going.  There was a fourth mistake, involving a full out critter rescue!   The fish were stressed from trying to swim against the current, the guppies got swallowed up by the filter, and one of the dwarf aquatic frogs got stuck between the plastic and the glass as there was a gap in the silicone sealant that attached the plastic to the tank.




My biggest failure in this experience was not allowing learners more VOICE and ownership in this project.  I failed in my unwillingness to give up control, in my fear of failure.  On a positive note, I failed BIG in front of a large audience and this project turned out to be the best Teacher Genius Hour Project, yet there was a more valuable lesson in this entire experience:


"This would be the last time that I would allow myself to fail in the classroom, by not giving up control of the learning to the learners." 


As I continue to co-create personalized learning opportunities, these are the 13 most important points that I would recommend to someone that is first starting out or is already knee deep in the trenches.

1.  First personalize YOUR learning.  I found that attending edcamps, reading books, blogs, and choosing my own learning opportunities allowed me to better understand how to approach this with the learners in front of me.  Keep in mind that there is not a one-size fits all method or approach to personalizing learning.

2.  Think BIG while starting SMALL.  This is not something that happens overnight.  It often involves some intense thought and planning.  Start by leading with the WHY? and creating a vision for where you want to go.

3.  Personalizing learning can be best described, rather than defined.  Personalizing Learning requires a shift in mindset.  It requires you to be more learner-centered, involving the learner as co-creator of their learning.

4.  Involve learners from day ONE.  Some of my best lessons and experiences in the classroom were co-created with learners.  I always start the year with a Google Form survey and collaborative activities in an attempt to get to know learners' interests and passions.

5. There is POWER in having a team to collaborate with.  This is no small undertaking; it is very challenging, yet not impossible to do alone.  Surround yourself with others that will support you, celebrate with you, and challenge your thinking.

6.  Think interdisciplinary.  Some of the greatest learning experiences are ones that demonstrate interdisciplinary connections.  Also look for authentic/real learning opportunities.

7.  Find a UNIT where you explore by putting your toes in the water.  For some, it is helpful to start small and plan personalized opportunities within a unit to build confidence before scaling it up.  Keep in mind:  personalizing learning does not mean giving up all control to the learners.

8.  Expect greater planning upfront.  I think "anticipating" is a better word.  If you are the type of person that has to dot your i's and cross your t's, this experience might be outright uncomfortable and scary.  If you are truly personalizing, it's nearly impossible to "plan" everything upfront.

9.  Focus on standards and skills to drive the learning.  This will allow for greater learner VOICE and will help to engage your learners.

10.  Expect failure.  Failure allows for growth both for the learner and for the teacher!

11.  Learner interests should help to inform decision making.  If were are truly personalizing, we are allowing for learner voice and providing opportunities for authentic learning experiences.

12.  Support one another in creating a room of experts.  Be prepared to give up control.  The learners may be leading one another in some of the learning.

13.  Utilize self-assessment to grow learner ownership.  Self-assessment, self-reflection, and feedback are important parts of the process and must not be forgotten about.  The combination of these three things will help elicit more ownership on behalf of the learner.

Find the courage within and you might find yourself singing along: 







Rethinking the Start of a New School Year with Learners as Co-Creators

As a new school year approaches, teachers are busy creating lists of tasks that need to be completed before learners walk in the door on that first day.  Much of what is considered includes:  How is the room going to be arranged?  What is going to be on the walls?  Which side of the room is considered the front?  Where should the teacher desk go?  What are the classroom expectations for the year?  What does parent communication look like?  What are we going to do on that "first day"?  What are we going to do during that first week?

The purpose of this blog entry is to rethink and revisit those questions that we ask ourselves at the beginning of each year, this time to include learner voice and choice in these decisions to move towards a greater learner-centered and learner-led environment.



Learner Voice in the Arrangement, Setup, and Theme of the Classroom


Whose room is it?  What does "OUR" room say about learner's interests and passions?  Is there too much teacher passion and interest present in the room?  Who is at the center of the decision making for how the room is arranged?  Who decides what the theme of the room or year is going to be for a particular class?

We are losing the opportunity to empower learners if we are the ones making all of these decisions alone.  If we are to empower learners to be in control of their learning and what goes on in the classroom, we need to involve them in these decisions.  What if we held these tasks until our learners arrived at the beginning of the year?  What if the walls were an empty, clean slate for learners to fill upon their arrival?  What if we co-created anchor charts and posters with learners throughout the year and showcased learner projects on the walls?  What if learners identified their favorite quotes and posted them?  Do learners really connect with what we traditionally post on the wall at the beginning of the year?

Many of these questions were inspired by something that I learned at Leyden's Innovative Teaching and Learning Symposium.  Kevin (a principal from PA) shared a story about how learners were empowered to define and create the vision of their Makerspace at the middle school level.  Learners were charged with the task to research and define what a Makerspace is, imagine what it would look like and consist of, compose a plan within a budget, and create a presentation and pitch it to their school board.  This is what learning should look like!  We should be putting more of this in the hands of our learners.


Learners as Co-creators of Classroom Expectations


(I am extremely passionate about staying away from the word "rules".)  Who is creating and posting class expectations at the beginning of the school year?  Are they listed in a syllabus and shared, or are learners helping to co-create these expectations?  If learners are co-creators of classroom expectations they are more likely to find meaning with them and are more willing to own them.  Who decides if music is played during work time and what type of music that is?  (I found this extremely challenging to make everyone happy at the high school level because of varying music interests.)  These are just a few of the questions we should be asking ourselves as we work to co-create classroom expectations with learners.

Learners as Co-creators of Classroom Communication


Who is the one creating the communication plan for the school year?  Is communication solely the teacher's responsibility, or can learners be responsible for some of the communication home?  Which form of communication will have the greatest impact?  It seems that improving communication is always a goal for teachers.  What if we co-created our communication plans with learners?  What if the learners assumed some of the responsibility for the communication home?  Would this help us to close the gap and make sure the majority of our families are reached?

One way that I did this within the AP Environmental science course that I taught, is I would send home "talking points" for parents.  That way when they would ask their learner what was going on in the classroom, they had something very specific to target.  This was something that parents appreciated, and at first learners gave me a hard time about, but really opened the door between the classroom and home.


First Week Plans Should Focus on Relationships and Collaboration


How do you build relationships on day one?  The first week?  What does that first day look like?  What does the first week look like?  We destroy some of the excitement within our classrooms when we introduce the syllabus, expectations, and supplies that learners need on the first day of class.  Our first day, and everyday there after should be nothing short of AMAZING, and should be something that learners remember and talk about on the last day of class.  Instead of focusing our energies on preparing our classrooms, what if we focused our energy on knocking it out of the park the first week?  What if our plans included BreakoutEDU, Amazing Race, and activities that encouraged collaboration?  What if activities during our first week incorporated and inspired learner's interests and passions?  Check out an article on Finland's relaxed approach to the first day of school.

If we do not ask ourselves these questions, we are missing out on opportunities for empowering learners and moving towards a learner-driven classroom.  The good news is, if you're reading this and the first day or first week has already passed, it's NEVER TOO LATE TO START.  Putting learners in the driver's seat can be extremely scary, but is a game changer in regards to learner engagement and empowerment!


Monday, August 15, 2016

First Days of School and BEYOND...Relationships MATTER

One of the most valuable things I discovered as a first year teacher was that relationships are key to learning.  I am extremely thankful for the opportunity that I had for Google to capture this in a short video to demonstrate how Google Forms helped me to build relationships with students.  While what students shared with me was in Google Forms was helpful, it was the fact that it opened up a line of communication with students that was most important.  Students felt comfortable talking to me and giving me feedback in person as a result.  Some of the information that they provided me also became excellent conversation starters in class.  The questions listed below were questions that I have asked students in the past.  I did not have trouble with students leaving their names.  Ultimately, all of this helped to reinforce that I care as a teacher which was a game changer in terms of engagement.


Beginning of the Year
What is your name?
Which class period are you in? [drop down of choices]
I am looking forward to (class name) this year?  Agree/Disagree
What is/are your goals for (class name)?  What do you want to get out of this course?
What are your questions or concerns about this class?
What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses?
Do you work?
If you answered yes, how many hours do you work per week?
What is something you would like to tell me about yourself?  Is there anything you feel that is important that I know about you?
Which extracurricular activities do you participate in at (school name)?
What are your plans for after high school?
What can I do to help you succeed in this course?
What would you like to see/learn in this course?

End of the Year Checkpoint
What is your name?  FIRST AND LAST PLEASE
What went well for you this year in (teacher’s name) class?
What could have gone better for you in this class?
What is one of your favorite memories/activities from class?
How are things going for you in other classes?
What are some suggestions you have for your teacher for next year?
What did you learn this year that you can take with you in other areas of life?  (It doesn't have to be school)
What is something you would like to tell students who are taking this class next year?
What are your summer plans?

End of Term Checkpoint
What is your name?  FIRST AND LAST PLEASE
Which class period are you in? [drop down of choices]
What went well for you this term in (teacher’s name) class?
What could have gone better for you in this class?
What would you like to see MORE of?
What would you like to see LESS of?
Do you think we should continue to collect homework the day of the test?  Explain.
What are some suggestions you have for your teacher for next term?
Do you take advantage of reassessment opportunities?  Why or why not?
How are things going for you in other classes?
What did you learn this year that you can take with you in other areas of life?  (Doesn't have to be school)
What is something you would like to tell students who are taking this class next year?

Benchmark Checkpoint
What is your name?  First and last please.
How do you think you did on the "Celebration of Learning"?
What did you do to prepare yourself?
What else could you have done to prepare?  Are you putting in a maximum amount of effort?  What could you do to improve that?
What can I do to help you be more successful?
It's the start of a new term!  How are things going in other classes outside of (class name)?
What are you passionate about?
Which (class name) topics are you passionate about/interested in?
What are your goals for term 2?
How can I help you achieve them?
Were you eligible to reassess on your first benchmark?
Did you take advantage of the opportunity to reassess?

Checkpoint
What is your name?  FIRST AND LAST PLEASE!
Which class Period are you in?
Do you ENJOY coming to chemistry class?  EXPLAIN.
What do you enjoy about chemistry class?  EXPLAIN.
What do you dislike about chemistry class?  EXPLAIN.
Are you happy with your grade?  Explain.
What could you do to improve your grade in the future?
Are you putting in your maximum amount of effort?  What could you do differently to make sure that you are successful?
Is there anything that I can do to help you or do differently to make sure that you are successful?
How are things going in other classes?
What are your plans for winter break?
What is going well for you in (class name)?
What could be going better for you in (class name)?
What do you like/dislike about the course?  What can I do to make the course better?
Is there anything I can do to help you?
How are things going outside of our class (ie other classes, sports, after school activities)?
What is one thing that you’re looking forward to within the next few weeks?

Mid-Year Checkpoint
What is your name?  FIRST AND LAST PLEASE
Which class Period are you in?
How are things going for you in THIS class?
What would you like to see changed/different in this class?
How are things going for your other classes?  In Life?
What was the most exciting thing you did during winter break?
What are your goals for the remainder of the school year?
This could be science related or related to your everyday life, or other classes.
What can I do to help you meet these goals?
What motivates you to do well?
How can I motivate you to do well?
What are you looking forward to in the next few weeks?

Motivation Checkpoint
What is your name?  FIRST AND LAST PLEASE!
What motivates you to do well in life?
What motivates you to do well in school?
What motivates you to do well in my class?
How do your teachers motivate you to do well?
What do you need to succeed in my class?
What does a successful learner do?
How often do you study/ revisit concepts/view targets outside of class?
How many times per week?  Never?
What are your goals for the remainder of the year?
What can I do to help you succeed?  What would you like to see changed in class?
How are things going in other classes?  In life?
What is something that you are looking forward to?


Friday, August 5, 2016

A Few Thoughts...After the Final Rose

Looking back to the design thinking process and our first experiences with it in AP Environmental Science, I came across a few big takeaways around certain stages of the process.



Define- I think it worked out really well that all groups had the same problem to start with.  Each group brought a different perspective and set of background information to the problem, and I felt that overall for the first round of the process that it was nice to have everyone on the same problem.  What we found was that even though each group had the same problem, they took a very different approach to how they were going to solve it.

Empathy-  While not intentional, something really great came out of this part of the design process and I didn't discover it until the end.  Asking students to solve a problem in the context of their own community allowed them to be more comfortable and creative with their solutions and it meant that they didn't have to go out and do much research around who they were designing for.  For the first time through the cycle, I thought this was helpful.  If we had more time, students could have gone out into the community and surveyed residents.  If students had chosen problems outside of our area, empathy would have looked very different.  I would have encouraged them to research how people felt within the area possibly looking for YouTube Videos.  It also would have been great to have students connect with people from that area by reaching out to teachers of schools to find connections.  This is an area where it may have been powerful to leverage the impact of social media.

Test-  If we would have had more time I would have liked students to have collected feedback from other groups, as well as from other adults in the building.  In the future I might consider inviting guests that would include but would not be limited to other teachers, administration, and even some of our support staff in the school.  This would help to leverage the impact of audience.

Share-If we had the time to run through various iterations of the cycle with this project, I would have liked the opportunity to bring parents and community members in to see student's projects.  Students might also have been responsible for creating a presentation that emphasized each of the principles of the design process to talk through how they solved this problem and share the written pieces that talked about their elements of sustainability as a way to assess their communication skills within an authentic audience.

Time-Additionally, in the future I would like to offer students the opportunity to solve a problem in their own community that they've identified, while also providing them time to put into place some sort of action.   I imagine this as something that takes more than just a few weeks and spans the entire length of the course where students are provided the opportunity to set goals and are given time to work on specific areas within the project.  We ended up running through two cycles of the design thinking process with two different contexts of problems this year.  The first problem was the sustainable cities problem, while the second was an environmental problem that students identified that they were passionate about.  Most of those problems involved a global scale.  The global problems were much more involved and they were difficult to research and solve within a week's time. Unfortunately with a time crunch, there isn't as much action and impact present as there would be if the project would have been spread throughout the year.

Habits of Mind-  One of the beautiful things about the design thinking process is that each of the cycles coincides greatly with each of Costa and Kallick's identified Habits of Mind.  While students did have some opportunity to reflect on certain habits within their final reflection piece, in the future I would give more time throughout the process to have students reflect on them during each step of the design process.  This might even turn into a discussion.   I could even allow students self-select 2 or 3 habits and speak to how they have demonstrated them throughout the design process.  There is so much more value in teaching and focusing on the habits through the context of problem solving, rather than than teaching them as a stand alone lesson.

DESIGN THINKING PROCESS
HABITS OF MIND (Costa & Kallick)
EMPATHIZE: Learn about your audience for whom you are designing
3. Listening with understanding and empathy
5. Thinking about your thinking
7. Questioning and problem posing
8. Applying past knowledge to new situations
DEFINE:  Construct a point of view
2. Managing Impulsivity
5. Thinking about your thinking
8. Applying past knowledge to new situations
9. Thinking & communicating with clarity and precision
IDEATE:  Brainstorm and come up with creative solutions
4. Thinking Flexibly
10. Gathering data through all senses
11. Creating, imagining and innovating
15. Thinking interdependently
PROTOTYPE:  Build a representation of one or more of your ideas to show others
4. Thinking flexibly
5. Thinking about your thinking
13. Taking responsible risks
TEST: Test your ideas for feedback
1. Persisting
4. Thinking flexibly
5. Thinking about your thinking
6. Striving for accuracy
14. Finding humor
16. Remaining open to continuous learning
SHARE: Share your learning with others
3. Listening with understanding and empathy
7. Questioning and problem posing
9. Thinking & communicating with clarity and precision
12. Responding with wonderment and awe

Impact-  We're always looking for ways to provide opportunities for creativity and innovation in the context of our courses, and I could not be more pleased with the result of how all of this came together.  My original intent was to make Ch. 23 "Sustainable Cities" a little more exciting, when in reality this activity pulled together all of the content that students had learned throughout the entire length of the AP course.  In end of the year survey, students spoke to this being one of their favorite activities because it allowed them the opportunity to be creative, something that isn't always tapped into or given the appropriate amount of time in an AP course.  Through the context of this activity students were not only exercising their knowledge of the content that they had already learned, but they were also working through the design process which exercised their habits of mind, they were collaborating, being creative, and also demonstrating their communication skills.  I cannot wait to help teachers find opportunities to practice this within their courses, as well as find opportunities for students within our Makerspace at the middle school.

If you are looking for resources on incorporating the design thinking process please check out this Google Slides Presentation which identifies helpful resources at the end.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Out of the Park--Sustainable Cities Project AP Environmental Science

Once in a while we hit one out of the park-The past two weeks was one of those times when Sustainable Cities, Design Thinking, Creativity, and Innovation became the center of our world in our AP Environmental Science "Sustainable City Design Challenge." We could have studied Ch. 23 like it had been approached in the past looking at transportation, eco-cities, and urban sprawl, but this year it evolved with a unique twist.

NOTE:  These ideas are NOT my own. Some are mine, but MANY are the contributions that my students offered throughout this process.  

Students were charged with the challenge to redesign a city/village/town to be more sustainable based on the concepts that students studied within the AP Environmental Science curriculum.  This included factoring in waste treatment, water resources, pollution, transportation, energy resources, maintaining biodiversity, etc.  It was a great culminating activity for the end of the year as it pulled together everything they had learned, as well as emphasized the Design Thinking Process.

The challenge was kicked off with a message hook that was delivered to a specific student in each class.  I wasn't thinking this through the night before I launched it in the first class, because I hadn't realized whatever I created could not be used twice.  Students would talk.  That meant whatever I created, I had to do double the work.  This had a BreakoutEDU style approach, without the boxes and the locks.  Clues were hidden throughout the room.

This is the letter that they received: 

Buenos dias.


You have been afforded the challenge to save the city of  威尔士 in a Sustainability Design Thinking Challenge.  Before you begin the design thinking process, you must search for clues to help identify the city, town, or village that you have been tasked by the president of to assist.  Clues may be hidden or exist in plain sight.  There are 19 clues hidden, beware some may trick you.  In case you get stuck, you have been provided (3) hint cards.  Time is of the essence... wells are running dry, street trees are being diminished by an invasive species, and biodiversity is at severe risk from development.  22.05 is on the clock.  

Cheerio.


Believe it or not, the first day within 7 min, students studying Chinese cracked the code in the letter and were able to confirm it against the other clues that were found scattered around the room.  These clues involved images, receipts, QR codes, shortened URLs, numbers of objects, all things that helped them identify the city/village/town that they would be designing for.


Once students figured out which city they would be redesigning, they assembled into design teams and created design team names.  After that we walked through each phase of the design process together as a group:  empathy, define, ideate, prototype, test.  This is a process that took days to cover.

For this project, we did not spend a ton of time in the empathy and define stages because most students were familiar with the communities of Wales and Delafield, as most students grew up in those areas.  The process of ideation was a lot of fun.  Students had stacks of sticky notes in which they brainstormed and contributed their ideas to their design board (white sheet of chart paper).  


Students struggled in Ideation Round 1.  They hadn't identified all that they would need to design a city.  That's when we revisited city planning concepts and did a chalk talk to bring some of those ideas together. Ideation Round 2 was a lot smoother once students had the city design essentials in mind.   The key to ideation was giving each student a stack of sticky notes to keep in front of them.  This allowed for participation from all group members.  Students also had a map of the city or village that they were designing from Google Maps to make sure that they included the unique geographical features of that area. 


One of my favorite parts of the project was when creativity and innovation came to life in the prototype stage.  Students were challenged to create a 2-D/3-D model of the city representing the different concepts that made their city sustainable.  I did not have to beg students to bring in supplies. They willingly brought in supplies without grumbling.  I was amazed!  What also struck me was students asked for more time to bring in other items to add as final touches to their projects. Outside of class during advisory, I even had entire design teams ask to come in to work on their projects.

The outcome of the prototype stage was some really creative models.  Students designed and voted on the awards that would be given out and the WINNERS are:  

Best Sustainable Design


Most Aesthetically Pleasing & Best 3-D Design


Most Creative

Best 2-D Design

Best Sustainable Design

Best 2-D Design


Most Aesthetically Pleasing/Best 3-D Design



Most Creative



Students were responsible for not only creating their model, but also submitting a written piece identifying the specifics of the sustainability concepts within their design.  

Sustainable Design Concepts Checklist
  • Zoning (agriculture, business, residential, forest, protected areas)
  • City is built for the people (ecocity concept see p.566 textbook)
  • Environmentally sustainable w/minimal environmental impact
  • Transportation (smart transportation?)
  • Water source
  • Water treatment (what type?)
  • Waste disposal (what type?)
  • Recycling
  • Protecting biodiversity
  • Business & commerce
  • Housing & housing density
  • Recreational areas & parks
  • Geographical features match current city
  • Pollution prevention (runoff etc, reducing CO2 emissions)
  • 2-D & 3-D components
  • Creativity
  • Map represents the city boundaries you are designing for (shape)

During the test phase, students had to present their design to two other groups. In the future, I would have students go through the test phase and then back to prototype to work out some of the feedback that was given by other groups. For this project, students received the feedback but didn't have to redesign. The final part of the project was a reflection (Google Form) on what they learned about the design process. Students also had to link images of their designs, as well as the reflection paper for later reference. In the future, I would be sure to shorten this process up, as it was quite lengthy and some of the questions were redundant. Students also had the opportunity to self assess and provide feedback as to where they were on the design thinking rubric. Our goal for this round was growth.

In the feedback students spoke very highly of this activity. They mentioned it was fun, it was interdisciplinary, and that it challenged their creativity and thinking. I could not be more pleased with the result and more importantly the engagement over the course of the past week and a half! I consider this an #eduwin!