Getting kids to think.
The simple act of thinking is the main ingredient in beginning a successful design. In education, it is the one aspect of our teaching that we have little control over. Teachers can see when a student isn’t drawing. We can observe that they aren’t paying attention (or we can assume), but it is very difficult to judge whether a student is truly thinking and brainstorming ideas or just riding out the clock. Often times, students aren’t trying to be sneaky or manipulative, they just
can’t persuade their brains to move around a problem. Mind mapping provides a way to visually interpret and illustrate
one's ideas. This benefits the students in showing them how to circumvent brain blocks and it certainly helps us teachers
understand how a student got to a certain point in their thinking and how they can move beyond that point.
I used Mind Mapping as an introduction to the Health and Well-being unit of my Foundations of Design Class. Students were simply asked to consider the word "health" and branch out with ideas, visuals, and connections. The class discussed the benefits of organizing thoughts in a visual way and I used the age-old exercise of asking the kids to think of a donkey. When asked what they thought of, all students described an image of a donkey flashing in their heads. From there, we discussed how as humans, organizing thoughts in a visual way goes along with our basic modes of recognition and perception. Humans are by nature, visual beings.
The drawings that followed our discussion range in depth and creativity. Some students focused on how NOT to be healthy while some focused on creating a "to do" list. I encouraged the students to not filter their thoughts in any way and merely recognize the connections and hierarchy.
How can you design a writing instrument while applying form and function effectively with emphasis on texture?
I do this project early on in the course as part of the review of the elements and principles of design. Students consider the texture of objects and how the psychology of touch plays an important role in the products that we interact with.
Their goal is to redesign a writing instrument that either possesses additional function and/or places heavy emphasis on texture.
The spectrum of completed assignments have ranged from mood pens to writing grips for people with limited hand dexterity.
Note about Materials: I have always used Model Magic for this assignment, but next time around will try something different. They Model Magic cracks very easily and the students rely on the "foamy" feel to act as the design solution. Any suggestions?
I have been teaching art and design at the middle and high school level since 2006 and learning about both for a lot longer.