A PROJECT CONTINUES: DESIGN CURRICULUM TO CREATE LEADERSHIP
In the 2013-2014 academic year, Philadelphia schools saw major changes to their under-funded school system: arts programs and school nurses were being cut and over 20 schools were closed, which resulted in students being moved to other buildings around the city. Inspired by this changing landscape, a designer sought out opportunity to use design to empower Philadelphia students. She found it by partnering with a new magnet high school, the Science Leadership Academy, also known as SLA. The school opened the doors of its West Philadelphia location in the fall of 2014. It successfully used its start-up budget to transform the building’s crumbling walls and broken lockers, but had to settle with gathering unwanted furniture from other schools for its classroom use. SLA has proven successful with its unique pedagogy, a STEM curriculum in which the students work on their school provided laptops completing individual and collaborative project based assignments. The design educator saw this as the perfect opportunity, in the pre-existing framework of the school’s “mini-course” sessions, to lead 4 groups of 9th grade students sequentially through the design process to create furniture specific to their school’s classroom needs. Each mini-course is an 8 week course, lasting 90 minutes every Wednesday. The mini-courses are only available to SLA’s 9th grade students, and the students are able to choose which mini-course they take each quarter.