Background Image

Redesigning education for social futures

To coincide with the public consultation of the draft Queensland Education Accord, State Library of Queensland (SLQ) Asia Pacific Design Library (APDL) partnered with Queensland Government G20 Cultural Celebrations Program and Kelvin Grove State College (KGSC), to host the Design Minds 2 Day City Workshop + Exhibition.
From 7-8 November 2014 at SLQ’s The Edge, design was front of mind for 105 year 5/6/7 school students representing 21 Brisbane and greater south-east schools, 20 teachers, 15 tertiary design student mentors from UQ, QUT and Griffith University Queensland College of Art, and 10 professional designers/artists from Queensland and New South Wales.

The Design Minds 2 Day City Workshop is the most ambitious public student design immersion program held to date in Queensland and represented a unique, fully funded, out-of-classroom opportunity for primary school students. Students were able to collaborate in teams with children from other schools in different year levels, to develop ‘soft’ skills, and learn about the political, cultural, social, environmental and economic implications of the design process and urban design. This future-focused and hands-on creative learning experience, crossed the disciplines of science, engineering, technology and the arts, incorporating multimodal (visual, linguistic, audio, spatial and gestural) meaning making. It demonstrated the value of real world participatory design and gave young students the opportunity to have a voice in the design of their city.

Capturing the youth engagement objectives of the Brisbane City Council Youth Strategy 2014-2019 for a Well-designed Subtropical City, students investigated the priorities of The Queensland Plan through council role play. Students were also ‘disrupted’ by future scenarios involving technologies, food/water, transport, climate change, zombie apocalypses, health, green space, population growth and space travel, through ‘wild card’ ideation activities.
Participants reimagined and constructed an 8m x 8m scaled model of a new world Brisbane City Centre Masterplan for 2050. Parents were involved as the city centre masterplan was ‘opened’ for public consultation by Brisbane City Councillor Vicki Howard, and later displayed in a public exhibition together with a timelapse video of the workshop. G20 International visitors touring SLQ were impressed by the creativity and intelligence of the embedded design thinking, particularly the sustainability initiatives implemented.
For the designers, artists and mentors involved this was a valuable reflection-in-action professional development opportunity in design education. For the students’ teachers, a chance to be inspired and motivated by their energies and empowered by the talents of the award winning quality teaching team who designed the program, two of whom have won Queensland Cooper Hewitt Fellowships at the Smithsonian Design Museum for their leadership in Queensland design education. It was also an opportunity to witness, reflect and discuss with peers, the affordances of design as a pedagogy for the knowledge economy, and its alignment to ACARA and C2C, through four teacher breakout sessions.
While it was impossible to gauge whether the students left the two days with an ability to implement in practice their acquired understandings in other contexts, it was evident from survey feedback and ongoing discussions that the teachers certainly did. One teacher redesigned her curriculum for 2015 utilising the Design Minds framework by Day 2!

APDL hopes that the video and resources provided for public download will allow the Design Minds 2 Day City Workshop to be replicated around the state in regional schools with the assistance of local councils and appointed Design Minds teacher ambassadors, and through documentation, demonstrate leadership in education for the 21st century in the Asia Pacific region.

Natalie is a Lecturer and PhD candidate in the QUT Faculty of Creative Industries, School of Design, with 18 years commercial practice background in Interior Design. She has served as a National Director of the Design Institute of Australia, and is currently Manager, SLQ Asia Pacific Design Library (APDL). Natalie’s research is focused around socially responsible design, community engagement and service learning, and design led innovation approaches in the secondary school and tertiary education contexts which develop generic capabilities required for the 21st century knowledge economy. Her research on Queensland design education programs has been published in international journals. Since 2010, she has been involved in the development and facilitation of over 20 design workshop programs for school students and teachers, and a member of the project delivery team for the SLQ APDL Design Minds website. In 2013, she co-authored the Arts Queensland funded Knowledge Economy Market Development Mapping Study, highlighting the scope and value of design education programs in Queensland, from primary school to the professional design sector.


Images courtesy the author