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Oct. 24, 2013 11:15 am

How to design a better school system?: 2 big ideas from DesignPhiladelphia

It was a daunting task: brainstorm how to design a better Philadelphia school system in three hours. Each team was assigned a prompt question and two of the five senses to use as a jumping off point. Here's what the two groups at Philadelphia University's DesignPhiladelphia "Service Jam" event, held at Center City creative agency allen & gerritsen, came up with.

This is a guest post by Caitlin Vivian, community manager at allen & gerritsen.

It was a daunting task: brainstorm how to design a better Philadelphia school system in three hours. Each team was assigned a prompt question and two of the five senses to use as a jumping off point. Here’s what the two groups at Philadelphia University‘s DesignPhiladelphiaService Jam” event, held at Center City creative agency allen & gerritsen, came up with.

Team Sound and Taste had the question “How might we spark more curiosity among students?”

Given the increase in childhood obesity, this group proposed a project that would emphasize healthy choices through cooking workshops that could be documented on YouTube. The sound and video production skill set would emphasize students’ sense of sound, and the cooking workshops would emphasize the sense of taste. This would enable students to learn about two concepts (food/sound and video production) simultaneously, and they could post their creations on YouTube and have people vote on their favorites.

Local Philadelphia restaurants would sponsor different teams and schools. The winning student team could win scholarships to local culinary institutes, internships at local restaurants, a visit to their school from a guest celebrity chef, and/or a channel like The Food Network could product an episode on the winning school campus. The big reveal could occur during Philadelphia Restaurant Week.

Team Smell and Touch had the question “How might we create a more inclusive curriculum in order to provide productive citizens?”

This team brainstormed a project called “You Can Touch This!” This project allows parents and others in the community to teach and enroll in hands-on classes (cooking, wood working, etc.). Class themes would emphasize smell and touch. Teachers would ensure that these workshops match learning outcomes of specific grade levels.

The entire community can get engaged in these classes by having parents and children sign up for a class, with registration tracked through a point system. The more classes you sign up for, the more points you can earn. Points are good towards vouchers that could be redeemed at community businesses in the area.

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allen & gerritsen’s involvement in this event stemmed from Senior Vice President of Creative & Innovation Chris Reif‘s participation on a panel event earlier this year, where the team met Natalie Nixon of Philadelphia University who spearheaded the Service Jam event. She’s the director of the school’s Strategic Design MBA, billed as “the MBA for hybrid thinkers.” This innovative program combines the analytical intelligence of business with the creative intelligence of design. The team has kept in touch as the program’s focus is aligned with the mission of Labs.

Think Brownstone, Skai Blue Media, Indy Hall, and the city’s Innovation Office were also involved in the pre-production and facilitation of the event, said event organizers.

The aim is to get these ideas in front of an audience at the School District of Philadelphia and the city’s Education Office.

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