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Archive for June, 2007
Bubble Wrap Competition June 28th, 2007

For the second year, the Sealed Air Corporation is sponsoring the Bubble Wrap® Competition for students grades 5-8.

Deadline for entries is 6 p.m. EST, Thursday, November 1, 2007

Demonstrate your creativity and ingenuity by creating an invention that incorporates the use of Bubble Wrap® cushioning.

Grand Prize – $10,000 Savings Bond
2nd Place – $5,000 Savings Bond
3rd Place – $3,000 Savings Bond

Fifteen (15) Semi-Finalist Winners Each Receive a $500 Savings Bond

The three (3) top winners also win a spectacular trip to New York City on January 25-28 to celebrate Bubble Wrap® Appreciation Day

Previous entrants, who were selected as finalists may not re-enter.

Semi-finalists may enter again with a new invention.

Entrants, who were not selected as winners for 2006-7, may re-enter with the same invention, an improvement on that invention, or a new invention if they are in 5-8th grades.

The Competition is sponsored by Sealed Air Corporation and administered by The National Museum of Education.

Web site:


The National Museum of Education applauds Sealed Air Corporation for its
unique vision to invest in America’s youth and for understanding that by
inspiring innovation and creativity we can keep America thinking.


When Innovation Doesn’t Matter As Much as a Roof and Running Water June 11th, 2007

The video should catch your attention, anyway, but towards the end when one of the school construction project leads mentions that the school could have been designed in a much nicer fashion…we’re reminded what really matters at the end of the day. For your consideration:


Up from just 48 percent in 1999, about 86 percent of Tanzania’s children now attend primary school. With funds from the Annenberg Foundation, the African Wildlife Fund has built a pristine new boarding school to help ensure that those numbers keep rising. The new school has running water, additional housing, and represents a giant leap forward in the education of the Manyara Ranch region’s Maasai children.

Playgrounds Given the Frank Gehry Touch June 6th, 2007

Are playgrounds the new (architectural) black?

Apparently its not a daydream or even the result of a kid’s wild imagination. Frank Gehry is indeed being hired to design a playground in New York City’s Battery Park.

Guess his MIT campus project wasn’t enough. Fascinating.

When Every Surface Goes Digital and Intuitively Interactive June 1st, 2007

Imagine every surface in your classroom — every desktop — is an intuitively interactive digital interface.  Heck, imagine just ONE such desktop somewhere in your school.  A minor opportunity for transformation?  Bueller?  Bueller?

Check out this "Surface" video which comes from Popular Mechanics (note: image is not a live link; click here to view:

Behind the scenes with the coffee table that will change the world.; Microsoft Surface; computers; microsoft; touch computing;

Curious. How would such technology — at $5,000-10,000 a table — help transform your new school design?

While you’re at it, check out the “photosynthing” demo at the recent TED Conference. Mind-boggling. Hard to imagine ‘just’ chairs and desks and blackboards (or even Smart Boards) for much longer:

Source:  Blaise Aguera y Arcas’ TED Talk on his Photosynthing tool.

Another reminder that the very foundations of what we mean by ‘learning environment’ is shifting beneath our feet. Are we ready? Are we?

Thinkering Spaces: An Experiment in Exploratory Learning (and Spaces) June 1st, 2007

Many of you may have heard creative rumblings from the MacArthur Foundation over the last year. “Rumblings” of $50million over 5 years to explore how digital natives are building and using new media/technology. Connections to school design beyond the curriculum and a few ‘conceptuals’ to kick around in design conversations?

Consider looking into “Thinkering Spaces”, started by the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Design in 2006, a project funded in part by the MacArthur Foundation’s aforementioned initiatives. The focus:

The ThinkeringSpace project focus is on developing preliminary criteria for the design of kids’ informal, exploratory spaces situated in libraries. The outcomes from this research are design principles for installations, including criteria for spaces, affordances and interactions that can guide the planning, design, specification and installation of a full scale system prototype.

In other words, it’s about discovery and learning through interactive spaces:

ThinkeringSpaces are interactive environments that encourage school age children to tinker with things, both physical and virtual, reflect upon what they discover, and elaborate their ideas in ways they can share with others.

In particular, library spaces appear to be the money-spot for innovation. From the MacArthur Foundation’s blog:

A year later the Institute of Design has established a new website and intriguing model of a new space in libraries where young people can tinker at their leisure. In hands-on activities kids have traditionally tinkered with bicycles, recipes, science experiments, etc. In the digital space what might tinkering look like and what kinds of problem-solving might it require? Faculty at the Institute of Design have dubbed this combined activity of tinkering and problem-solving “thinkering” and believe the library may be just the right location for a “thinkering space.”

Curious. How many of us as school planners/designers/architects (and stakeholders of all varieties) are keeping tabs on programs like this? And how many of us are noticing a trend of organizations/professionals/researchers that are outside the field of ‘architecture’ (per se) that are beginning to pursue the design of learning environments in similar ways?

Worth a discussion? Or just a minor trend easily ignored?

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