classroom with large model of city

Design Based Learning Delivers Required Standards in All Subject K-12

by Doreen Nelson, Fall 2004

Teachers find that by using a small activity to ignite their students’ curiosity they can speed up their students’ learning while solving problems of curriculum overload and classroom behavior.  Design Based Learning provides a concrete method for teaching and evaluating students that integrates the required K-12 curriculum.  It uses techniques from the design professions to form a methodology that challenges students to design hands-on solutions to problems in simulated experiences.  As students develop Never-Before-Seen solutions for businesses, cities, villages, or civilizations they learn to think critically.  They apply the lessons from textbooks that address the required academic standards.
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Backwards Thinking: The Highway to Change

by Doreen Nelson
Professor, School of Education and Integrative Studies,
Adjunct Professor College of Environmental Design
California Polytechnic University, Pomona

Climbing the Learning Ladder

Much thought in education theory and learning theory has been devoted to how to produce original thinkers. Teaching students how to be creative thinkers does not exist. Education is primarily about learning what has been done, simply accumulating and replicating information. Students are not taught to become dexterous at transforming, changing and handling information. That is thought to be the unattainable domain of a rare breed of humans.

The Living Environment Three-Dimensional Learning: A Vehicle for Creative Development

by Doreen Nelson © 1987

One of the most important and neglected subjects of real education is that of children regarding the city environment in which they find themselves living. Can they as children have any effect on the evolution of the massive physical items surrounding them? Yes,t hey can. For a number of years it has been demonstrated that this subject is intensely interesting to both the children and the teens. Classes are enormously stimulated by the actual designing, fabricating, and operating various building structures and,above all, building classroom size models of the cities the students plan.

I recommend that City Building Education be included in all elementary and high school curricula.

Buckminster Fuller
May 8,1983

Educators commonly assume that learning is best achieved through surveying and memorizing the past, then summarizing the drifts of history to account for the present, in hopes that the future will profit from lessons of hindsight. Formal design instruction is omitted from kindergarten to high school, and it is only introduced at the university level to a few students who plan to pursue careers in art, design or architecture. The thinking skills for formulating and fabricating original plans can be applied to general education at all levels. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is project oriented and that the projects fit into the broader context of the living environment. Practice with using skills associated with planning and building returns the domain of control over the creation of our environment to everyone.

Global Cal Poly Pomona

Partners in Research
Create-Online: Exchanging Physical Culture, Cal Poly Pomona and Sendai, Japan

by Doreen Nelson, Hon. AIA

"Hi, my name is Matthew. My pen pal is Takuya. Would Takuya please stand up so I can see him?"

Matthew is a student in a Walnut Valley Unified School District (WVUSD) classroom that is reaching across eight time zones via video conference to plan and build a city of the future. This is not science fiction. The children from Chaparral Middle School in Diamond Bar, California and Katahira-cho School in Sendai, Japan are forming their future by reforming their physical environment.

Not just a pretend place; both classrooms are taking their own topographic land mass - the place they call home - and making it into what it could be, should be, might become. They are asking each other over e-mail, snail mail and video conferencing to have an opinion about their home using the criteria that they set for a city 100 years in the future. The buildings are to incorporate never-before-seen features, to be handicap accessible, pollutant-free and to allow for a lot of open space. They cyber-drag each other over the ocean to become a neighbor sharing dilemmas, having a common future. By taking responsibility for designing and building structures on a corner of the otherÕs landsite, they form a powerful bond.

students in classroom with wall sculpture