The 2013 National Art Education Association (NAEA) National Convention was held in Fort Worth, Texas on March 7 – 10. The NAEA Design Issues Group (DIG) invited Cooper-Hewitt to participate in their workshop “Classroom Design for Art Teachers and Students.” The workshop included eight stations with various DIG members presenting. My presentation was focused on Cooper-Hewitt’s national on-line resources, including the Educator Resource Center (ERC) and Target DesignK12: Design in the Classroom. 150 teachers attended this lively two-hour workshop.
Teachers flowed in and out, and at any given time there were about eight teachers at my station for a duration of 15 minutes before they were encouraged to move on to another station. At the center they were provided with several examples of ERC-based K-12 lesson plans, and then participated in a quick design challenge that Cooper-Hewitt uses to introduce people to the design process. I enjoyed facilitating the center as the teachers quickly brainstormed about their given challenge and then prototyped a design solution. Each team was given a bag of simple materials that included a fastener, surface, and a structure such as rubber bands, foam pieces or craft sticks. With limited time of about 5-8 minutes, each team quickly got engaged and excited.
The teachers enjoyed the open-ended activity and said they could see real possibilities for connecting it to their own curriculum. We discussed some next steps referring to the Target DesignK12: Design in the Classroom teacher resource packet, What is Design?, which was posted on the NAEA app and available to all conference participants. When asked what learning skills they took away from the quick activity, responses included problem-solving with others; risk-taking (because they weren’t sure if their prototype was going to work); and empathy– because they were designing for a user.
It was affirming to see how easily strangers were willing to work together, and many teams were grateful for the opportunity to be active learners. The conference was a great opportunity for me to speak to teachers firsthand about design thinking and share the online resources Cooper-Hewitt provides its national audience.