The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA

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Principles of Design

This fall, a new class appeared on the schedules of Fay’s fifth and sixth grade students: Principles of Design or POD class. Taught by Design Teacher Deborah Morrone-Bianco and Digital Literacy and Design Teacher Lisa Sanderson, POD is a foundational class in creativity and design that introduces students to the building blocks of the Upper School Creators Class curriculum. POD class meets once a week and allows students to work on projects where they acquire technical design and fabrication skills with an intentional focus on the design process - fostering creativity, brainstorming, risk-taking, and resilience.

Every class starts with a five-minute warm-up exercise that helps students get into a creative frame of mind. Students were handed a blank page in a recent class with Alfred Einstein’s quote, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Using the quote as inspiration, students had five minutes to respond.  One student drew the first letter of her name surrounded by swirls, and another drew a self-portrait in which they are reading a book because that fuels their creativity. “It’s open-ended, and there is no real answer,” notes Lisa, “and that makes some students very uncomfortable.” Working through that discomfort is an essential skill to acquire. Lisa and Deborah have established a set of classroom norms to support the skills acquired in POD class. Students should be prepared to take risks, make mistakes, share their ideas, listen to other students’ ideas, give and receive constructive feedback, and respect others.

A recent class focused on teaching students how to brainstorm, which is essential to every academic discipline. Students broke into groups, and each group received a brown paper bag containing three different objects. Bags might include a notecard, a toilet paper roll, masking tape, a rubber band, a cotton ball, or a popsicle stick. Lisa and Deborah challenged each group to come up with as many ideas for things that they could make with those three items as they possibly could in a set time. Brainstorming is about churning out as many ideas out as possible. “You can’t judge or eliminate ideas while brainstorming,” says Lisa, “So we encouraged them to play off of each other because sometimes one idea spurs another good idea.” Some groups excelled at generating a steady flow of ideas, imagining designs for a boat, seesaw, treehouse, spyglasses, a hamster tube, a maraca, and a treadmill. Other groups struggled to get beyond three or four ideas and were eager to move out of the uncomfortable brainstorming process and on to the next phase of the project. Lisa and Deborah encouraged those students to keep digging for more ideas. 

Once each group had a healthy list of ideas, they returned to Fay’s four pillars of design which states that designs should be useful, functional, sustainable, and aesthetically pleasing. Using the pillars, groups narrowed down their ideas to a single object to build. During the remainder of the fall, POD students will be acquiring the skills necessary for project work in the winter and spring terms, including using TinkerCad 3D design software, hand drawing, and sketching.