A couple of weeks ago, I recounted our field trip to the Pottery Barn.  To the uninformed eye, this might have seemed like a rather lame field trip–traveling to a furniture store and looking for furniture, but it was essential to our understanding of the design process.  We found some inspiration in the objects there, and through that experience, we were able to create our own designs and prototype them using cardboard, paving the way for the exciting experience we had today.

We actually brought our designs to a wood shop, met a furniture designer, and saw some of the processes that will help bring our ideas to life.

A students scaled design of a bookshelf.

The kids bustled with excitement, getting their hands on everything they could.  Their eyes whirred as they watched saws spin and slice pieces of wood in mere seconds, and their faces brightened as they learned the ins and outs of furniture making.  We traveled to Ohio Design, a furniture designer in the Mission, where the kids were able to see first-hand how we could go about building the furniture we had designed.  Better yet, they were able to touch it, first-hand.

“He’s such a boy,” David, the furniture designer said, laughing.

IMG_2999He was referring to our students and how his hands was on everything.  He was constantly touching, feeling, observing, and experiencing what it really felt like to be in the design shop.  At one point, he even went so far as to touch the greasy and grimy steel that had been recently welded together.  No worries, it was cooled off and completely safe, but he got a little bit messy!

Learning doesn’t have to be purposeless, and it doesn’t have to be boring.  Today, our students saw that learning is fun, and that it happens through touching, interacting, observing, and experiencing.  In fact, if not for this classroom design project–if not for the first-hand experiences we’ve provided for the kids–I doubt their investment and their progress would be half what it is now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge proponent of deconstructing standards, identifying children’s just-right levels of instruction, and progress monitoring growth in discrete skills.  But the learning experience would be incomplete if not for the time when children can actually see and feel their learning applied before them in real life, and we would be remiss if we did not make the importance of this learning visible to them.

And that’s what we achieved today… or at least I hope we did.

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