STEAMed Magazine July 2015 - Page 35

Erica had gained real-world learning from the sketches, questions, problem statements, and noodling she had logged in her design notebook from the beginning of February to the end of April 2015. The project? Design the lighting for a Habitat for Humanity home for a single mother and her children, maintaining affordability and simplicity while increasing safety and aesthetics. Erica’s entries, focused on interior stairway lighting for a singlefamily home, had nothing to do with automobiles per se. But, on her own, she realized she had the know-how to solve an everyday problem. She was dropped into a moment of applying authentic learning and she had the self-confidence to carry it out. Had I lectured her on circuitry, rather than allowing her the opportunity to think and plan and “make” by way of her design notebook, she might have been taught, but she never would have learned so well. The design notebook is perhaps the number #1 learning tool that we educators — educators across disciplines — can place into our students’ hands. It has learning applications beyond the arts classroom. At the same time, the design notebook serves to reinforce that art and design are at the foundation of the problemsolving, innovation, and critical thinking that our communities need right now to address foremost concerns. As educators we can deepen our work with young people by helping them learn to innovate, participate, problem-solve, and lead in such key endeavors. Regarding the power and effect of STEAM,1 Margaret Honey, president and CEO of the New York Hall of Science, says, “It is not about adding on arts education. It’s about fundamentally changing education to incorporate the experimentation and exploration that [are] at the heart of effective education” (emphasis added).2 I would hasten to revise that last phrase from effective education to effective learning. In my work with Pretty Brainy, the education nonprofit I founded to empower girls to develop their STEAM ideas and abilities, the design notebook is a staple. Here is why. Think of the design notebook as a tool to — Inspire while making space for students to experience the process of planning, execution, and reflecting on what they are doing. The design notebook is where ideas and innovation begin. Populate it with words, sketches, equations, clippings, color palettes, quotes, questions, problems, client profiles, lists, and more. 35