Last Wednesday, January 18th, my high school “Design Lab” class and the Extraordinaires Design Thinking Club I’ve organized at our campus’ middle school were lucky to host designers Phil Holcombe and Gayle Ulrich of PlusUs, a Philadelphia-based, educational design consultancy working with clients to help them reimagine the educational experience for all people involved, learners, teachers, staff, and families.
I’d met Phil and Gayle back in September when
they hosted one of their first League of Extraordinary Educators meetings in Philadelphia. These gatherings, comprised of local teachers and educators empowering their students through design-based learning, have helped initiate some intriguing conversations and provided a venue for teachers to share some of the amazing work they’ve been doing.
Phil and Gayle got a chance to critique some of my Design-Lab students’ presentations of open-sourced learning projects and they also listened to middle school students tell the stories of their Extraordinaires and the what they designed to meet their Extraordinaire’s need.
Part of our Design-Lab/Open Source Learning class is to try and bring more people into the room, be that physically or virtually, so that the students have access to as many experts in the fields in which they are interested. Having Phil and Gayle come into our classroom, and then to spend time with our Middle School Design Class offering feedback on their storytelling and inventions, raised the students’ level of professionalism. To a one, they were excellent and recognized first-hand the value of having other eyes on their projects, especially eyes that saw their projects anew.
While I’m proud of the HS Design Lab students and what they’ve been able to accomplish over the past two marking periods, I’m equally proud of the Middle School Extraordinaires Design Thinking Club. These students have designed and build low-fi models for each other, they’ve run through thee iterations of the Extraordinaires Design Studio projects, and they’ve presented with minimal preparation.
George Peppard’s character from the 80s TV show, The A Team used to say, “I love it when a plan comes together.” I’ll go with that, but with this admission: I had no plan. Only an inkling, an idea, and an itch. What’s most wonderful in school is when the students help the teacher make the plan come together. And that is what happened here.