As a high schooler I was enrolled in honors and AP classes, taking fine art lessons in my spare time. I chose to go to art school, and quickly identified with design as a satisfying outlet for my right brain creativity and left brain logic. Last fall I listened to Kim Goodwin’s redux of her Each One, Teach One manifesto from Interaction ’09 in Vancouver. Her words resonated with my own conflict in choosing an educational path, and I walked away with one big question: Why don’t high school students and teachers know about the potential of design?
Inspired by Kim’s call to action, Carmen Dukes and I began researching high schools in our local community of New York City. When we talked to educators about what goes on in their classrooms many told us about the effects of budget cuts and stricter curriculum rules, the lasting impact of a recession and the No Child Left Behind Act. The students we spoke with only knew about design as relating to fashion or interiors, and weren’t aware of the man behind the mirror who designs the cool websites, games and apps they use everyday on computers, mobile devices and in public places.
Tony Wagner discusses many of the new requisite skills for the 21st century workforce in his article, “Rigor Redefined.” He cites critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, adaptability, communication and imagination as key skills for students to master in today’s economy. While most of these skills sound familiar to any practicing designer, they are strangely absent from many classrooms.
From our research and exploration we came up with Project: Interaction, an after-school program that teaches high schoolers how to change their communities using design. By focusing on their community, we hope to engage students and motivate them to improve an environment they interact with every day.
Besides getting kids interested in design, we think Project: Interaction will benefit students in their other pursuits. What would it be like if students in engineering, business and medical schools had received some design education during high school? They might be more apt to think creatively about the problems they’re confronted with, and might come up with better solutions as a result.