Can students implement a real world solution to a landscape design problem? How do the spaces around us come into being, and how do they affect us and the environment?
Students redesign an area of High Tech High North County working in conjunction with a professional landscape architect.
Students were separated into 12 design teams of 6 students each and were tasked with learning all aspects of landscape design. Using the Stanford “D” School model of design thinking, teams surveyed the student and faculty population to determine the needs for an under used area in front of the school’s commons. Teams not only had to address the needs of the users, but also had to adhere to a redesign that incorporated drought tolerant and/or native California vegitation. They had to understand the biology and environmental concerns in using these plants vs others. Additionally students had to create scale drawings and models (3D rendered or traditional 3D) to illustrate their ideas. Using Google Sketch Up, Blender, Adobe Photoshop, as well as traditional media, students collaborated on the creating of a new design for the space spanning several iterations based on feedback and critique.
For me this project was one of my all time favorites with students. To see them tackle such a large scale and all encompassing project, then execute it like professionals was a significant reward. Along the way there were definitely hiccups and things that organizationally were a challenge. Specifically, dealing with down time and how to have students accountable to each other in a meaningful way throughout the project was a bit of a struggle initially. As a teacher, this project showed me that long term projects are so important in pushing students through the difficulties of a long term project, and to persist and succeed in the end. It was a chance for me to get students doing real world work with professionals in the field, and a way to introduce a multitude of topics and skils to my students within one project.
When my Multimedia teacher, Mr. Sevilla presented the idea of relandscaping the bland and useful space outside in front of our Commons I had several different feelings. One was excitement- I had never in my life or High Tech High career been given this opportunity before. I could do so much and learn a lot through this, using my creative gifts. I was also somewhat nervous and afraid, honestly. Like I said, I had never done something like this before. This was completely new territory and learning experience, for not just me but my whole class.
This process had many steps and parts- we had to survey other students of what they wanted for the space, then construct ideas from that feedback, then continue in refining and editing our design while also researching the supplies, plants and costs for our design. We needed several representations of our information gathered on our design board such as several vignettes from different angles, elevation drawings, 3D model, pie chart of data, key… the list continues.
Once we got into our assigned design groups, that is from day one, I knew that this project would be a long, crazy and bumpy road. I had a large mix of students in my group of six, from hard workers to not-so-hard-workers to right in the middle. I am a natural control freak, over achiever and leader. I stepped up right away as a leader and facilitator of the group. This was no easy task at all. From the beginning, I would get stressed and overwhelmed by the work load.
There was so much to do. Not only did I chose to not to the regular “ground” requirements and want to go above and beyond, but I took on the role of keeping my group together, making sure they were on task too. I was constantly stressed, I didn’t know how we’d get everything done in time. I had very high standards of myself, my group and our work. I held on tightly to the control I took on. This was not a good habit for me. I kept going and talking with my teacher, Mr. Sevilla about how I was feeling. He would comfort me and help me get my thoughts and work under control.
I worked so hard on this project wanting it to be the absolute best that it could be. I created a main vignette of what the area looked like from above, as well as four other smaller drawings from other angles, an elevation drawing, the text for our board, creating a booklet with extra information, lots of research of plants and resources and cost and keeping my group together. It was a lot, so much more than I should have done or what was expected on me.
I learned so many valuable lessons from this incredible experience. Once, of course, was simply the wide art of landscaping. People really don’t appreciate it or acknowledge as much as they should, I know I do now. I also have learned how to have a landscape mindset, to see things differently though the eyes of a landscaper. I also took away so many things that apply to my heart and mind. I really learned that I need to let go of my expectations of myself and others. It’s ok that things don’t go the way I want them to go. Also learning to pull back was important for me. After Thanksgiving break, I really starting applying these things, I pulled back more and let go of how I wanted things to be. I felt so much more relaxed and at peace. Looking back, I think that I was trying to find my worth in this project. I feel that I also took away that my worth and identity is not found in how well or hard I work in school or how beautiful my design board is and I can apply these lessons throughout the rest of my life.
In the end, everything came together amazingly. All the work got done and everyone pulled through with their work. I was so proud of what created, it turned out so well. My friends, peers and family were so impressed and I was so pleased with my work. I loved this project and all I took away, every up and down.
At the end of the projects students will have produced graphical representation of survey data, created drafts of scale drawings, a 3D model, perspective drawings, budgets, and a presentation of their design to a panel of professionals and invested parties