The start of a new school year is always exciting and nerve-wracking. After multiple meetings and planning sessions during the summer, the Studio D10 teachers (myself included) felt prepared for our upcoming design challenges; however, we also knew that everything could change once we met our kids. The atmosphere of the classroom plays a huge role in how we structure our classes and design challenges.
But any nervousness we had essentially disappeared once we got into the classroom with our kids. The beauty of Studio D is that we are all one big family, and the warmth and familiarity among the students by no means dissipated over the summer months. After seeing the students greeting each other with excitement, we knew that they would be an enthusiastic group -- we could get right to work!
The first week of school, which is usually only three days, is often a little crazy, and there is so much going on (schedule changes, daily homeroom, et cetera). Family is Westwood's theme this year, and family and community are SO important to Studio D work. We wanted to make those first three days all about community, team-building, and a review of our design process.
Community-building icebreakers included a rousing game of "Would You Rather" wherein students stand on a line in the middle of the room and move to one side or the other, depending on their preference between two extreme scenarios. (One example: Would you rather be the best player on a losing team, or the worst player on a winning team?) Once they choose a side, students discuss their decisions with each other, and develop three logical reasons why their choice is the better of the two. Students select one person to speak on behalf of their group, and both sides share their reasons. Students and teachers alike had a lot of fun with this activity, and it gave us an early indication of who the leaders and the speakers are in our new cohort.
Students also completed a pre-test of the design process with others at their table. This served as a review for former D9 students, as an introduction for students who are new to the program, and gave us a starting point for further teaching of the design process.
Another mini-challenge that we completed within the first few days was the crafting of the "Ideal Studio D Student." This activity was inspired by consideration of the "Ideal Graduate," which all of the Studio D teachers completed during a summer PBL workshop with the Buck Institute. Students collaborated with one another to discuss, sketch, and label their "Ideal Studio D Student," incorporating qualities that they believe such a student would have. Afterwards, each group presented their ideas, and we combined the qualities the class identified in all of the "Ideal Studio D Students" into a Wordle (a word cloud). This activity helps all stakeholders see what our students' expectations are for the program, for themselves, and for their peers.