As Year 8 students (young people aged 12–13) travel to school each day, use the facilities and throw their waste into the bins, they may be adding to the school’s carbon footprint, but they are also picking up a detailed picture of how their school works – or doesn’t work.
So ran the thinking behind the Dott Eco Design Challenge. If schools were going to be made more eco-friendly, the students would be the ones who knew how to do it.
Nick Devitt, from Dott 07, says all the students needed was help unlocking what they knew. Designers from Dott 07 provided tools to help them compile a complete picture of their school environment.
The first were computer aided design tools. A spreadsheet doesn’t seem to be an obvious tool to give students tasked with redesigning their school but, as Devitt says, any design project needs good data to work with:
‘The idea was to ask schools to look at their ecological and carbon footprint over a 24 hour period and then to redesign an aspect of their school based on that.’
Where the designers could help here was by creating a way for students to visualise the data they’d collected. ‘The carbon calculator we created was a spreadsheet, so they had to populate it, make some calculations, and then put them into another product we developed, the cartoon calculator, which creates the cartoon image of the school. So, from numbers and statistics you get a visual image, which is an important transition to make. People can look at it and see, for instance, that they don’t organize their rubbish properly. it was immediately obvious which issues needed to be tackled within the school.’
Drag and drop computer graphics were the next tools provided to help students create a picture of how much energy or water was used in the classrooms or toilets, how much recycling was done, or what went on in their canteens.
Once the pupils had created an ecological picture of their classrooms or canteens they had to come up with ideas for how to make these parts of the school work better for the environment.
‘What was initially thought to be a simple project became a whole school investigation which enlightened our understanding of the use, misuse and abuse of our energy supplies.’
Caroline Pryer, Headteacher at Ponteland Middle School
Designs of the time 2007 (Dott 07) was a year-long series of design projects run by the Design Council and the regional development agency One NorthEast to involve local people in exploring how design can improve everyday life. www.dott07.com