Design for Learning


Visual Resumes

For some time, I've thought about how we document our learning. A standalone resume often doesn't explain who has influenced our thinking and what overarching issues and organizations have captured our hearts. How might we talk about and document our learning pathway(s) as interwoven layers of institutions, peers, mentors, conferences, and contributions and causes? What features would an interactive portfolio need for teachers assess our learning?


Diagramming elements and guiding questions (Adobe Illustrator)


Natrona Prototype Design Lab

In collaboration with Design for America, The Third Teacher + team led a 3-day workshop for Natrona County School District to empower students to tackle real world challenges in their community. The first day is based on developing a studio mindset, where students get familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of their team, and listen to business partners present their opportunities for redesign so that they may select their design challenge.  The second day is full of research, design-thinking methodology, site visits, and brainstorming. By the third day, teams are prototyping their solutions and honing their presentation skills for their clients. Throughout the three day experience, students are expected to work as a creative professionals, learning communication skills, visualizing their ideas, and getting feedback from real-world business leaders in their community. Time and again, students have reported that this is a transformative experience for them: the level of creative freedom, the appreciation and respect from the community, and their ideas taken seriously by professionals. 


Students of Casper, WY enjoying a good game of "WAH!"

We are continually faced with great opportunities which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems.
— Margaret Mead
Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.
— Albert Einstein


Understanding Structures with the Academy for Global Citizenship

Students from AGC visited us in the loop to learn more about architecture and engineering professions. After a brief tour of the office, a Q&A session about what architects think about, their responsibilities and opportunities, and a breakdown of some famous structures in downtown Chicago, we issued a design challenge: create the tallest tower holding 10 pennies using only paper, tape, and zip ties. 


AGC Team 4 learns about cross-bracing.


Discovering "genius loci" with
Chicago International Charter School: Prairie

Each year, we host groups of students to experience the city as a learning landscape. We design activities in parallel with CICS Prairie faculty to enhance their STEAM curriculum.  Students walk through Millennium Park and are asked to use all of their senses, iPods, and brainstorming palettes to document what makes a space a place. Afterwards, they use design-thinking methodology to redesign the site for their school. 


CICS Prairie students listening to Lurie Garden

Designing Higher Education Summit


In March of 2012, a group of innovative college students were invited to the Cannon Design Chicago office to redesign the future of higher education.  These innovative student leaders and organizers from universities across the United States launched an intimate, immersive, multi-day, discussion that explored post-secondary education as an open-ended design problem.

The students were tasked to create simple rules to modify the complexity of problems we find ourselves facing in higher education. Students representing Cornell University, Vanderbilt University, Northwestern University, Columbia University, University of Oregon, University of Hartford, Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, and Arizona State University developed three concepts, which they pitched to a group of local professionals.

From within this dynamic network of design-minded students, Cannon DesignersMNMLDesign for AmericaFirebellyUBetter World by Design, and Greater Good Studio, came three new platforms for life-long learning.

"What if the future the higher education..."

"What if the future the higher education..."


SAFARI: How can students map their own learning pathways? This group would like to prototype an interactive resume as a way to document and validate learning experiences outside of the institution.

PAUSE/PLAY: How can higher education be more like kindergarten? This group designed a curriculum based on self-awareness and generating your own learning outcomes.

ED.URBAN: How can the city itself be an open access educational platform? This group pitched a shared database and city pass for citizens to work, study, and learn within an ecology of mentors.

Join the conversation on their Facebook group, Design + Higher Education.


Fostering Whole Systems Thinking Through Architecture
Eco-School Case Studies in Europe & Japan 

Getting the tour of featured case study, Kingsmead Primary School, from the Eco-council of sixth graders

Getting the tour of featured case study, Kingsmead Primary School, from the Eco-council of sixth graders

Undergraduate Honors Thesis at Cornell University (2009)

In eco-schools, the building itself is used as a lever for environmental education. This research examines how architecture, engineering, landscaping, and educational systems are combined to make school buildings the instruments through which students learn how to lessen human impact on the environment. Through tours, interviews, archival data, and surveys with data from England, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, and Japan, this thesis investigates factors involved in eco-school development, and documents four eco-schools’ design, activities, and students’ environmental attitudes. The specific aims are:

Aim 1. (a) What factors aid eco-school development, and (b) in what kind of social contexts does this occur?Interviews with principals, architects, and government officials revealed that eco-schools develop quickly with enthusiastic principals who excite their students, faculty, and school board members with occasions to think and act in ecologically responsible ways.

Aim 2. What are contemporary exemplars of eco-schools, in architecture and activities? Four contemporary eco-school exemplars were studied in England, the Netherlands, and Japan. These schools had an average of 14 environmental features, with the most common being utilizing daylight. Eco-school activities varied considerably with transportation modes, composting and gardening, and field trips. 

Aim 3. Can eco-schools influence a child’s way of thinking in different ways than traditional schools, in terms of environmental attitudes? Across four schools studied, the average environmental attitudes score was 84.43, using a 28 item adapted scale from Musser and Malkus (1994). Although findings indicated that the number of environmental features in a school was not a significant predictor of environmental attitudes, this may be due in part to the fact that all schools studied were eco-schools. Future research might include schools varying more in both design and curriculum.