During the design thinking class today, one of the students asked if they could use the period to plan the school dance with a Halloween theme that’s coming up. He and several classmates are on the dance-planning committee, and the dance will be in the Design Studio. Unfortunately, the room is all hard surfaces and concrete — there’s a lot of echo in the room, and it’s going to be hard to have a thumping dance beat, loud conversation, and bright lights flashing. Not a great combo.
So, instead of working on our real world problem (borrowed from the Nueva School — “How do we … convince more young people to donate blood during blood drives?”) for another week, we decided to use the weeks until the dance to try to solve the noise problem.
At that moment, the dance and drama instructor happened by. So we got some immediate, expert feedback in how to control and reduce echo — fabric, broken-up surfaces, and rugs. The class began looking at fabric (brought up from the drama department’s storage areas, thanks to our expert visitor) and ways to hang that fabric as baffles from the ceiling.
The class came up with a design for the cloth baffles, and we did a temporary hang of one piece of fabric to check if the sound was muffled at all. The dance committee members decided to go back to the rest of the committee to see if we should proceed on making the baffles more effective and/or permanent.
In some ways it was a wasted class. Kids kept trying to shout one another down. They had loud conversations that bounced off the walls, and made it clear just how hard it will be NOT to have sound baffles during the dance. It feels like we didn’t make much progress at all on the dance or our regular project.
BUT. I do feel like some people, both kids and adults, had started to notice that problem-solving and challenge-solving is exceptionally local, and totally real-world. And we made progress on recognizing that shouting and yelling at one another doesn’t actually lead to solutions. The kids came away with some new energy and excitement about the dance that they have to plan. And slowly but surely, we’re evolving the habits that help kids become good problem-solvers.