Current Issue Back Issues Cards
Issue 10, Spring 2013
Click here to have this issue shipped directly to you.

An Artful Thinking Classroom,
   Jessica Ross
Solving Real-World Problems With
Open Source Software
   Tim McNamara
Change Leadership For Learning,
   Tony Wagner
Deeper Learning In Common Core
Math Projects
   Sarah Strong
Design Thinking and the Shift
from Refrigerator Projects
   Lindsey Ott & Eric White
Deeper Learning For Professionals,
   Karen Fasimpaur
Gaining Perspective: Guiding
Student Reflection
   Tara Della Roca
A Differentiated Lesson, A To Z,
   Cara Littlefield
Taking A Stand On
Controversial Issues
   Mary Hendra
Scaffolding Creativity Through
Design Thinking
   Mindy Ahrens
Don’t Just Talk About
Character: Teach Habits
   Liza T. Eaton & Cyndi D.Gueswel
Teachable Moments: A Lesson In
Listening To Students
   Beth DeLuca
Mindsets and Student Agency,
   Eduardo Briceño

1: Energy Puzzles
2: Food For Thought
3: Historic Rap Throwdown
4: Turning Points, Toy Theatre
5: The End of the World Uncovered
6: Matter All Around
7: The Learning Landscape
8: Are You Fitter Than a 5th Grader?
9: The Great 9th Grade Odyssey

The Learning Landscape

download pdf

Students often complain about their learning environments, whether it’s comfort, mobility, or the aesthetics. They often describe their schools as feeling like a warehouse or even a jail. These oppressive and sterile surroundings are just not conducive to learning. In response to this need, we issued our students a challenge: design a piece of furniture better suited for the 21st century learning environment.

Throughout the project, our students learned how to empathize, synthesize data, brainstorm ideas, and prototype solutions that met engineering, humanities, and design specifications. The project culminated with students designing and building eight innovative pieces of classroom furniture to meet the needs of their clients: a class of fifth grade students that were dissatisfied by their learning environment.

Teacher Reflection
This ambitious project was led by STEM and supported by humanities. As an anthropologist, my favorite part was when our students gathered data to understand and empathize with their fifth grade users, because students are not often provided with enough opportunities to think outside themselves. The most challenging portion was engineering the students’ ambitious designs. We empowered them to pursue wild ideas, but we still had to engineer them to meet safety and durability specifications. The most satisfying part of the challenge was delivering the newly constructed furniture to our unsuspecting users. The looks on the fifth graders’ faces made every moment of this challenge worth it.                       —Lindsey Ott

Student Reflection
We learned core concepts in math, science, and humanities while producing new and innovative designs for furniture. My team designed a Ferris wheel bookshelf that not only stored materials on the shelves, but also had rotating bins where the students could place their belongings. That idea allowed us to tackle a key science concept, rotational mass, in an engaging way that provided us with a great education and the elementary school with a great bookshelf.                       —Jon  

To learn more visit: or