In 2015 Macquarie Primary School and DMA came together to develop a design learning program for Year 5/6 students.
The intention was to undertake a formal, reusable design process to learn service design theory through practice with a real world problem: improving the car park experience.
DesignInSchools was co-created with a design and education focus. It was an opportunity to explore with a group of 11 year olds how service design can be used as a creative, problem-solving discipline and how it can extend their current inquiry-based education focus.
DMA’s process moved through intent, design research, analysis, prototyping, testing and solution development. The overarching approach was validated with teaching staff and incorporated formal teaching techniques such as the use of a glossary for recall, and split-screening to reflect on process and content. This was applied to a real problem: the perception that the school car park was dangerous and how to improve the experience for all users.
DesignInSchools was both a project in developing design education and a project focused on delivering an enhanced experience. In terms of the design focus, the entire team incl Executive developed, refined, and costed the designs across 3 key areas of user experience. These are under consideration for implementation by the school community and Directorates now.
For the education component, the project has had a significant impact. Process debriefs with the broader teaching group explained the process throughout, the lead teacher incorporated design approaches to her teaching routine and the School Executive are seeking to re-apply the DesignInSchools approach to a number of design problems within the school.
DesignInSchools was about bringing design into the education environment and improving the car park experience for all users. For the design approach the solutions addressed 3 experience needs; set boundaries for behaviour; first inform then direct; deal with the peak. The designed experience has been quantifiable – both delight and pragmatic agreement; It’s now a shared space that isn’t dangerous if used as designed.
For the education focus the experience focus was the ‘little people’ as designers, not students. They were supported to undertake research, prototyping, analysis and testing themselves. No method or technique was simplified – the experience was authentic and their learning shaped their experience.
DesignInSchools was a deliberate engagement with students as a design team delivering on a real design problem.
It was driven by an exceptional and creative teaching group looking to add to their existing education approaches, but the core concepts and approach are applicable in any school:
Designers lead the process, but students lead the solutioning;
Over 6 structured modules students learn how to apply their existing skills to a new methodology–Service Design;
Students are led in all design techniques but self-define their particular interest and specific techniques they wish to pursue;
School Management must receive a focused, professional artefact around a key school issue or design problem.
The education component of DesignInSchools was developed to be sustainable within the school environment. Each session is module-based and can be applied at any time in the school year. The sessions can be held in any location and be responsive to the school needs in terms of teacher availability.
The design output, the car park experience, was true to the concepts of sustainability. The design had to be implemented within the existing budget and available resource effort. As such it focused on social capital, re-use of existing infrastructure and education rather than construction. A truly sustainable outcome, and one that will cope with the school population increasing over time.
An increasing focus on design education beyond the traditional tertiary level combined with the Australian Government’s ‘Ideas Boom’ and formal focus on STEM and innovation approaches as part of everyday learning in primary and secondary schools is excellent.
But the missing link is design; thinking creatively to solve problems from a collaborative and human-centred position.
DesignInSchools took the innovative approach of co-creation with educators in a school where inquiry-based learning was already embedded. The students learned theory through practice, by doing actual design in a disciplined way, producing a real-world design specification that will change how their car park is experienced.
The impact of the project is best summed up by feedback from the school’s Deputy Principal: “The entire project has been one of the most inspiring, sophisticated and meaningful learning projects that I have seen in my entire career. I have loved watching DMA bring teachers and learners along together in the process, breaking down traditional barriers and encouraging learning about design, project management, communication and leadership in a real context.”
The design project itself dispelled parental car park myths, presented real solutions that have been tested to work, and gave the decision-makers the tools to action with evidence and confidence. Importantly it inspired a group of young people to design.