Home Program Innovation Workshop
At the heart of Park Day School’s Design+Make+Engage program is the Innovation Workshop (watch video), an indoor/outdoor space where students deepen their identities as designers, engineers, builders, and scientists. Maker-centered learning relies on collaboration while offering opportunities to learn about new tools and technologies. Park Day School partnered with Harvard’s Project Zero to develop our program, which fosters important thinking skills including adaptability, collaborative thinking, risk-taking, and multiple-perspective taking—critical to thriving in a complex world.
Many Innovation Workshop projects unfold in pairs or small groups, to model the way people work together in the world. Through both the design and build phases of a typical Innovation Workshop project, there is a high degree of cooperation needed. Partners must use empathy and listening skills to share and combine ideas, draw or map plans to mutual satisfaction, and translate them into tangible, 3-D creations.
As kids mature through the lower grades we start thinking and working more intentionally around physical computing (watch video). We have a three year sequence of building programming skills starting in 3rd grade with Scratch, and then Microbits in 4th and 5th. That then sets up kids in Middle School for units on circuitry and coding, as they apply their understanding of programming towards other projects, particularly in math and science.
Projects in the Innovation Workshop serve as valuable assessment opportunities, as they provide an authentic way to witness each student’s collaborative skills, frustration tolerance, resilience, fine motor skills, planning, organization, visual-spatial skills, and risk-taking in the planning and creative process. For students, projects in the Innovation Workshop bring an academic topic to life in a tangible, hands-on way, that helps cement the learning process and keep it engaging.
In Middle School students engage in design and build challenges during advisory, dive into special projects in math and science class, and utilize workshop resources during the clubs program.
Students learn about design- and systems-thinking (watch video) as they engage in measuring precisely, planning and iteration of designs, applying scientific understandings to design and then build solutions for themselves and others, including designing and building something to meet a community need.
1st graders recently explored design, engineering systems, and human needs. They started by asking the question, what kind of robot could help solve some of our community’s current problems? After researching current events, including recent wild fires and floods across the country, students decided to build a robot who could suck up flood waters and use them to put out fires. To create this robot, students were given access to various machines and old tools. They used Venn diagrams to examine the use and properties of the materials. Then, after taking these apart in the Innovation Workshop, they repurposed the parts to create a robot and a class narrative about its imagined capabilities.
2nd graders studying the history of how different peoples arrived in the United States over time practiced putting themselves in someone else’s shoes by way of the Journey Box project. Students were asked to think about the different situations in which people have arrived in the United States during our country’s history. They consider how they would feel if they had to leave their home country to live in a new one, and how their feelings would change if they left by choice or against their will. What would they bring with them if they could bring only a few things? In the Innovation Workshop, students built boxes out of wood to symbolize the small amount of possessions immigrants may have brought on their journeys. We acknowledged the differences between those who have a choice to leave their home and those who don’t, and discussed current events at the border in developmentally appropriate ways.
5th graders took their scientific inquiries about solar energy into the Innovation Workshop, where they built prototypes of solar houses and tested out their hypotheses about collecting and storing solar heat.
In 6th grade, students participate in an integrated project to process and analyze mathematical and scientific data while exploring personal and community identity. While learning about mean, median, and mode, students recorded multiple sets of measurements regarding the length of their different bones, skull circumference, and more. They calculated the average measurements class-wide, and moved into the Innovation Workshop to saw and rebuild a life-size plastic skeleton to reflect the measurements of the average 6th grader. Conversations grew increasingly layered as the class discussed gender and racial identity, and who they were as individuals and a community.
8th graders studied sound and vibration in science class. After learning about principles of sound and engaging in labs about sound waves, each student used a graphic design program and computer assisted tools to create their own instrumental prototypes. Select students presented their work during the East Bay Mini Maker Faire to a group of teachers from around the Bay Area, who hope to take a similar learning process back to their own schools.
Students consider these essential questions: