Secondary school students urged to rise to design challenge
Lesley Gulliver and Darren Evans – experienced design thinkers from brand consultancy The Engine Room – visited students at Salendine Nook High School this week, in a bid to prevent the ‘death of design’ from the UK curriculum.
280 year eight students gathered to hear the challenge set by the local design experts – four weeks to design something that will help people live a healthier lifestyle in 2019. Whether it’s an app, a cookery book, wearable tech or a promotional video, the design and technology (D&T) students have been urged to think big and not be held back by the misconception that it might not be possible.
The challenge marks a new collaboration between The Engine Room and the secondary school’s D&T teaching cohort, who are equally passionate about preserving the imagination and creative problem-solving skills of young people. They’re big believers in the fact that whilst design was once a ‘top of the pile’ subject, it is increasingly being dropped in favour of seemingly more ‘academic’ subjects, in schools throughout the UK.
The challenge therefore marks the start of a drive to get students, parents, teachers and employers thinking about the power of design.
“We’re not saying everyone needs to grow up aspiring to be a designer, by job title,” explains The Engine Room’s founder Darren Evans. “But design thinking fits in everywhere. It encourages a collaborative, iterative and human-centred approach to tackling challenges that simply isn’t taught in other subjects.
“So, whilst I applaud the country’s commitment to raising STEM subject performance, I desperately don’t want this to be to the detriment of students being able to study design too. So, what better way to hopefully inspire them, than explaining the opportunities that design can create for them, just before they’re due to make their GCSE subject choices.”
“We’ve a challenge on our hands to banish misconceptions,” continues Salendine Nook’s D&T head of department Andy Loadman. “D&T is not ‘woodworking’ or home economics anymore. It’s a subject that centres on teamwork. There’s never a wrong answer. We encourage our students to conceptualise, create, test, learn, and re-think, together. This will see them learn life skills that apply to varied careers ranging from engineering through to the public health service.
“We’ve got some uber-bright students within the school and having only spoken to them briefly about this challenge before The Engine Room’s visit, it was such a joy to see how excited they were by the prospect of experimenting with their creativity. This is exactly why I became a teacher in this subject.”
Darren Evans and Principal Mr Christian will decide on the winner of the challenge in four weeks’ time. The victor will go on to receive a bespoke purple pencil, which mimics the prize awarded to winners of the UK’s iconic D&AD (Design and Art Direction) awards – only in Salendine Nook colours rather than the infamous yellow!
“I’d like to hope this could become an annual, multi-school contest,” added teacher Nicky James. “This could be the start of a really exciting design hive for young people, which puts design firmly back on the curriculum map!”