Notable Innovations in Education

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”
-Buckminster Fuller, American Architect, Systems Theorist

I have always been passionate about system design-what works, what doesn’t work, and how to make change. Heres a look at recent actionable innovations in education that I find inspiring. I will share the story of Project H, Studio H, the GreenHouse Project, and Edible Schoolyards.  Each of these projects rethinks the use of space for play and adds educational enrichment to the experience of the space.

The Learning Landscape in action! from Project H Design on Vimeo.

Case Study #1: Project H learning landscapes

Project H (the “H” stands for “Humanity, Habitats, Health and Happiness”) has become a dynamic force in the rapidly expanding humanitarian design movement by assembling a global network of volunteers to work on community projects, including a children’s play program in Bertie County, North Carolina.



Studio H Farmers Market

Case Study #2: Studio H
Website: Studio H Build, Design, Transform

Studio H is a public high school “design/build” curriculum that sparks rural community development through real-world, built projects. By learning through a design sensibility, applied core subjects, and industry-relevant construction skills, students develop the creative capital, critical thinking, and citizenship necessary for their own success and for the future of their communities.

Projects: farmer’s market, community chicken coops, corn hole

Case Study #3: The GreenHouse Project, Connecting Science, Technology and Social Studies to Foster Sustainability
Website: The Greenhouse Project

This special greenhouse classroom is part of New York Sun Works’ Greenhouse Project. Its goal is to teach kids about urban farming and the environment. “You get to think with your hands,” Laurie Schoeman, the director of Sun Works.

Students tend the plants and watch them grow. The produce is served in the school cafeteria or local restaurants. “It allows the kids to connect science to social studies while growing—and eating—their very own fresh and delicious food,” says Sidsel Robards, who is one of the founders of the project.

The classroom on top of P.S. 333, a public school in New York City, is not your typical classroom. Cucumber, tomato and lettuce plants line the walls from floor to ceiling. Next to the desks, fish swim in a pool of water. Ladybugs fly around the whiteboard.

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 1.36.08 PMLearn more


Case Study #4: The Edible Schoolyard
Website: Edible Schoolyard

This program uses food to nurture, educate and empower youth. It is nationally recognized for its efforts to integrate gardening, cooking, and sharing school lunch into the core academic curriculum.  Alice Waters was inspired to create a schoolyard garden out of un-used land and couple the garden with a kitchen for teaching to enrich both school curriculum and community. The garden and kitchen have provided a greater impact for children to learn science and math.  Alice established the Chez Panisse Foundation in 1996 to support the Schoolyard and encourage similar programs that use food traditions to teach, nurture, and empower young people. The success of The Edible Schoolyard led to the School Lunch Initiative, whose  national agenda integrates a nutritious daily lunch and gardening experience into the academic curriculum of all public schools in the United States. Alice’s restaurant looks amazing.
Check the free IDEO Design Thinking Toolkit for Educators. It’s a great resource.