Studio H in Bertie County, NC blends participatory design with early college high school in innovative, open source STEM curriculum

I first stumbled upon Project H because of an Airstream trailer and the Design Revolution Roadshow.
 
In addition to Airstreams and Roadshows, Project H combines several other passions of mine – participatory design for social change, design learning, early college high school, and a very global perspective. They describe their focus area as Design for K12 Education:

Project H believes that design solutions belong in the hands of the next generation. One of our key skill sets is building a human-centered process that collaboratively develops and implements curricular, material, and environmental solutions for K-12 public schools, youth-focused organizations, and educational agencies. Our focus on K-12 education is rooted in the belief that design is not just about products or beautiful spaces, but a way of thinking, and that this creative critical thinking is a valuable problem-solving skill to be learned at a young age…

 The roadshow ended in May, 2010 after 75 days visiting 35 schools to showcase humanitarian designs to the next generation of designers. A group of kindred spirits called Urban Re:Vision bought the Airstream and Project H founder Emily Pilloton and project architect Matthew Miller (that’s Matthew making water filters with the students) have settled in Bertie County, North Carolina to do design with students in the School of Agriscience and Technology at the Bertie Early College High School.  The video above is from day two — their first project — in Studio H. You can follow progress on the Studio H Blog.

We hope to develop Studio H into a deployable one-year curriculum that could integrate into any other school district’s core, technical education, or STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) program. In Bertie County, we will use the next two school years to tweak the syllabus so that it might better fit a variety of districts seamlessly. We hope to offer the full one-year program to other rural school systems by fall 2012, but in the meantime, all of our project lesson plans are open-sourced and available for all to use within their current course structure.

I was happy to see an August New York Times article tell the story of their work in Bertie County which has not been without significant obstacles. They’ve designed some brilliant solutions.

 

Middle schoolers w $200 do real science w digcam, GPS phone, lithium batteries, cooler, handwarmers, balloon & iPad to rescue

Students in Bill Wiley’s science elective at the Potomac School in McLean, VA signed up for a challenge: photograph the curvature of Earth for $200 or less. Thirteen 7th and 8th graders met every other week for a year, doing the necessary research and project design in preparation for the launch. They purchased and programmed a digital camera to shoot three photos and ten seconds of video every minute. They intalled cold-resistant lithium batteries in the camera and a GPS-enabled cellphone running Instamapper, added chemically-powered handwarmers to keep the electronics warm in minus 70 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, fit them into a $6 styrofoam cooler, and rigged the cooler up to a weather balloon that would carry it 20 miles into the stratosphere, with a parachute to bring it down. The launch on June 5 went off perfectly. There was one hitch on the descent – Google satellite images showed the cooler in a field a four hour drive from where their calculations had shown it would land. One of the students had his father’s iPad along and used that to connect via the cellphone networks to locate the cooler. View photos of the ascent and descent on the Potomac School website. Full story here and a Washington Post perspective here.

Exploratorium Learning Studio gets Tibetan monks in India tinkering with cardboard automata

I found this video of Tibetan monks tinkering with cardboard automata by noticing my friend Eileen Clegg had made a comment on Tiff von Emmel’s blog back in April, 2009. The cardboard automata is a “tinkering activity” developed at the PIE Institute at the Exploratorium (check out the PIE IDEA Library). This is one of three videos with the monks posted by The Learning Studio at the Exploratorium from a project they did in Sarnath, India in January, 2009. You’ll find more backstory on The Learning Studio blog.