The Outdoor Classrooms

To start the year and ease us back into design briefs, the Innovation Diploma facilitators gave us a design brief for our school. We were to increase traffic and awareness of the outdoor classrooms behind the school. The result would hopefully prove to people that you can learn outside of a classroom and it doesn’t take very long to get there.

We started by observing the space, trying to figure out why people didn’t already use it and what they could use it for. After our initial observations, we split into groups to interview, clean, research, and brand.

I chose to work in the interview group and while some of the things we found were things we assumed during our observations, others were unexpected (ex: one of the teachers is allergic to mosquitos). A lot of the new teachers didn’t know the space was available, math teachers wanted a whiteboard, and many thought the time it would take to get downstairs and having no control over the weather were conveniences too big to make using the classrooms worthwhile.

The cleaning team continued to clean, trying to fix what we could: damp tables, trash, and general appearance. We also started to add things to the space with pieces of wood painted colorfully and with encouraging words. Inside of the school, I worked with my teammate Anna Kate to make people thinks about going outside more and learning outside of a classroom. We did by writing phrases the branding team had thought of on whiteboard in the hallways and a chalkboard in one of the stairwells. One team added camp chairs outside for more comfortable seating and another one created prototypes of lap desks to solve the problem of students having nothing on which to write.

I think the team did a much better job this time meeting as a whole to share where we were and what we were going to do next. It’s an issue we’ve had in the past, so I’m glad we’re starting to establish norms for it.

Some people are going to be continuing the project, improving the space more and developing the prototypes. Other will be starting new design briefs, and I’m excited to see where they’re all heading!

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