Flexibility and fluidity have been at the forefront of the 2020-2021 school year. Crane Staffulty, parents, and students have adapted to the continuous changes that have been required on our campus during the pandemic. Many of these adaptations happened behind the scenes. While flexibility is always an element in curriculum planning, it has played a leading role this year. Our Design and Engineering teaching team shows us how embracing flexibility and fluidity has resulted in worldly learning experiences for Crane’s engineering students.
Matt Martino joined Crane in 2020 as a new teaching fellow. As a biology major from Cal Poly Pomona, he brought with him an extensive knowledge of science as well as a love for music. Sabina Funk, Crane’s engineering teacher and mentor, met with Matt over the summer to discuss how they would integrate his expertise into the engineering curriculum AND resolve the challenges that a global pandemic and remote learning bring to project-based learning. Sabina was a member of the team that created Crane’s Design & Engineering curriculum for our kindergarten through eighth grade program six years ago. Her experience, creativity, and technical know-how allowed her to recognize Matt as a great resource and capitalize on the interdisciplinary opportunities at their fingertips.
The 2020-2021 design and engineering curriculum was implemented in September, remotely for the first two months and then to students both remotely and in-person for the remainder of the year. This year’s curriculum incorporates both biology and music.
Sixth graders were introduced to the term biomimicry, which is the concept of creating designs and structures modeled from those that already exist in nature. They learned about the perfect structural and chemical designs all around us and how they can adapt those processes to solve a global problem - climate change. After much brainstorming and collaboration in small groups, sixth grade engineering students set out to design solutions to issues such as wildfires, droughts, floods, and food waste.
The “CACTA PACK” is one group’s solution to droughts (see their inspiration and design in the image below). This backpack uses a fog harp to funnel water from the moisture in the air down to the backpack. It also utilizes the capillary action system found in plants to transfer water from the ground and into the backpack. The actual water storage is a cactus shell.
The students concluded, “Our group hopes our design can help the communities around us and around the world by fighting thirst and helping gather more water.”
The students’ final statement touches on the very first stage in the Design Thinking process -- design empathy. Students first empathize with the individuals they are designing for so that they understand the problems, motivations, and desired outcomes. Following this stage, students define, ideate, prototype, and test their creations.
This one biomimicry project shows us how students used the Design Thinking process and built skills to help them solve real world problems. What an excellent opportunity for students to be designers in global change.