I don't have pictures of what it looked like before, but in the last picture Riley is standing behind a huge pile of sticks and trees, and that is only half of how much we cleared out. I specifically contributed to this project by doing my part on what we all agreed to do everyday, but overall the work was split up pretty evenly.
Written description of the project:
This project was one of the best I’ve ever done. We started off by creating prototypes in a group of people or by ourselves. I chose to work with a friend, and I really liked the prototype we made. We then put our ideas onto ideation papers, and from there chose our favorite three ideas to make. In the beginning, I did not think this project was going to be very fun, and I did not think it was going to work out like the teachers thought it was going to, but I was definitely wrong. I originally thought that it was going to be boring and kind of like a “task” to make our prototypes and such, but it was actually very interesting and interactive. At the end of this project, my initial thoughts and feelings about it were sort of confusing. I thought that this was a fun project and that it was a good learning experience, but at the same time, I thought that it was rushed and didn’t really feel like something that I made. I think that the teachers told us what they wanted us to do with our projects too much, and I feel like most groups ended up making a lot of things that the teachers wanted them to make, instead of something that they thought of and would have been proud of.
At the beginning of this project, we went on field trips and had a guest speaker come into our class and talk to us about sustainability. The field trips that I went to were at Twin Buttes, where we learned about sustainable farming and later walked through a house that was being built to see how they were using sustainability in their resources and the design of the house. Something that I took away from the house was that it is actually really easy to include sustainability into almost everything. For example, they used certain windows that would keep heat in during colder seasons to keep the house warmer so you wouldn’t have to use as much electric heating. They also used cinder blocks that they made out of used concrete and wood chips so that they re-used resources. I also went to Fort Lewis College and learned about their compost system. It was really interesting to see how they did it, and how much they actually used. They have the students (that order food from the cafeteria) put their plates on a conveyor belt and scrape all of the leftover food off them, which is then put into a machine that crushes it up. After that, they mix in wood chips and then use it as a fertilizer for the garden there. I think that it’s really good I went there to learn about that because it showed me that big changes can start off as something small, like having a compost system at a college, but as I tell you about it, you might start your own. We also had a guest speaker come talk to us about how he makes sustainable houses, using tin cans, tires, and many more odd resources. He talked to us a lot about what he thinks sustainability is when building houses, and these are what he said: energy efficient, resource efficient, longevity, functional, small, simple, and beautiful. I didn’t really connect with this speaker, but something that definitely stood out to me was some of the things he used to build houses. They were wood, gypsum, concrete, plastics, bricks, foam, fiberglass, glass, cellulose, straw, mud, tires, and cans. He then explained that some of these are toxic, so he likes to use them to build to lower the amount of, for example, plastic waste.
It took me a very long time to really realize what sustainable design was because there are so many different definitions of it for everyone. But, after thinking about what we’ve learned and how people have defined it, my definition is re-using resources to create something new. This is my definition of sustainability because after seeing how things were built and made, I realized that everyone likes to re-use things that could be harmful to our planet in the future, or re-use things to create something fresh and new.
outdoor/final prototype description:
When we did our empathy interviews, something that came up a lot in mine were comfort and safety. They also said they liked places by the water, but it had to be peaceful, quiet, and beautiful. Before we had chosen a place to build, we were thinking of making a study space next to the river and include a place to eat lunch. We thought about how we could include all of these things, and we decided to clear out a space by the river, make some staircases, and hang up a hammock. I know that if we hadn’t done the empathy interviews, our project would have been a lot different, and I don’t think it would have been as good as it is. Ideation was a very helpful part of this project. At the beginning of it, we were in classrooms with many other people, and we were given prompts to answer with a sketched idea of what would be cool to make and have at school. Annika, Luke, Riley, and I used some of the ideas to create our own. We saw lots of ideas that included walkways, gardens, and places to sit by the river, and decided to use all of them to create a space next to the river. It was really nice to be able to use all of the ideas that were created because then I knew that someone would want to use the space and that people would actually go to it.
All of the things we wanted to involve in our final prototype were created, which I’m very proud of. They were: making two staircases, cleaning and clearing out the area, hanging up a hammock, and making a flower bed (which we later made because we had free time). Our thought process wasn’t very planned out, and we sort of came up with things we wanted to do or make in the moment. For example, we were originally going to clear out the space, hang up a hammock, and possibly put some chairs down there, but as we built everything we came up with new ideas. The process to make it was really easy. First, we raked and cleaned one side of it where people used to sit, and then we cut down a bunch of dead trees and bushes and raked that side of it. We spent around a week and a half doing this because we wanted it to look really good, but also be comfortable. After that, we began making stairs coming down to it on the hill above it. They didn’t work very well, so we spent a lot of time refining them to make them work better and safe to go down. We hung the hammock up around the end of the project because we still had more clearing to do, and everyone loved it. So many people came over to come sit in it, that they actually started to get in our way, but we just worked around that. We had extra time like I said, so Annika and I decided to make a flower box out of wood and put it next to the hammock, and it looked really nice. We never got around to actually planting flowers in it, but that could be someone else’s project for the future. We also ended up making another staircase that went down a second hill and right to the hammock, and a teacher helped us make them which helped a lot because we weren’t very good at it. He taught us a lot about how to make them really well and gave us many tips which were good to have for the future.
I think that the 21st Century Skill I grew most in was adaptability because we made a lot of changes to our design and the things we were making, but it was very easy to do so. I think that part of that was because the people in my group were very easy going, and we were able to make changes and decisions easily. An example of a time when I adapted to a change was when we were told they might end the project sooner than we thought. It was kind of abrupt and we thought we were going to have to rush through everything we still had to do to get everything done, but as a group, we talked about it and made a list of things we needed to do first. This was very helpful and we ended up finishing everything before the project was even over.
I think that out of the Habits of Heart and Mind, refinement is where I lack the most. This is because usually when I finish something I want to be done with it and not have to worry about it anymore, so I usually forget that I should refine, refine, refine. I did this a little bit in this project, but probably not as much as I should have. For example, we could have refined the second staircase we made. Some of the steps weren't very sturdy or safe. I thought that over time they would have been pushed deeper into the ground, but I should have fixed them then. If I had, they would probably look much better and would be safer. If I had thought of ways to refine it more, our project might be a little bit cleaner, but overall we did a really good job.
One challenge we had to overcome was at the beginning of making our project. We were going to use a spot next to the river that was already pretty clean, but then another group said that they were already using it, so we had to improvise. I suggested that we use the space right next to it, even though it was very dirty and was basically just dead bushes and trees. We used that space instead, and I think that it actually turned out much better than the original spot would have. I think it was better we used this space instead because it needed to be cleaned anyway. It was also much more open than the other one and had trees to hang up the hammock. I also think it was better we used it because the other space was already clean, so we wouldn't have had much to do during work time.
At the beginning of this project, I thought the success of the final product would be somewhere people would want to go and something we would be proud of making. I guess I was right because I feel very successful and pleased with our final product. I see people go there every lunch, sometimes to study, just have some peace and quiet by the river, or when they are waiting for their parents to pick them up from school. Although not all of the other groups finished, I think that we are all proud of what we made, because we know how much time and effort we put into making everything.
We never really came upon a problem that we weren’t able to solve. I really liked this because whenever we had a problem, we would start thinking of ways to solve it right away, and most of them worked. For example, when we were making the first set of stairs, they weren’t very good and there was a lot of erosion. A lot of teachers told us that we had to fix them, so we came up with the idea to put wood and metal poles at the end of every step to hold them up better and then cover them with gravel, and it worked perfectly.
Some advice I would give to people starting this project next year would be to choose your group members wisely, and not just want to work with your friends. Although I did this and it worked really well, I saw a lot of other groups fall apart because they were messing around the entire time and couldn’t focus, which ended in them not finishing their project. I would also advise that they plan ahead, and make a calendar of things to do each day. This would help them because they would be able to see what they would still need to get done. In my group, we wrote out an overall plan of what we wanted to accomplish each day, and because we had four hours to work everyday, we were usually able to start on what we had planned to do the next day as well. At the end of the project we had about two spare hours because we had planned ahead and got everything done.