And so it (almost) begins: our last day before the crazy comes in

Hello everyone, it’s Cypress from Ms. Jo’s Engineering class. Today we watched a film called If You Build It  about thirteen teenagers from Windsor, North Carolina that participate in an unconventional and untested pilot design class. The assignment is this: the teens must make something lasting for their community. The stakes are raised by the fact that they only have one summer to build the entire thing, and by building I mean taking a shovel and digging in the dirt. They must compete to make the best design and prototype beforehand, so the mammoth project that has the potential to restore their town rests almost entirely in their inexperienced hands. Also, Windsor is small and rural, with a failing business sector–downtown is shutting down and all the young people with intellectual promise are moving away. The public education system is lackluster at best–in the local high school, PE is an online class. Despite the widespread dislike of school, the participating juniors manage to bring an amazing amount of creativity, ingenuity, and spirit to the classroom. Led by two voluntarily unpaid designers turned teachers, the team spearheads challenge after challenge. I recommend this film for its honesty, humor, and inspirational lessons about the power of young people in their community.

Like the students in the Studio H design class, our Engineering class has a strong focus on learning through making, not reading or sitting at a desk. However, we have amazing resources that help us out in our making ventures. Our administration supports engineering projects, we have good funding for our greenhouse, and we’ve learned a fair amount about design in the four  previous years. But for all of this, I don’t think I could have come up with this amazing blue-and black-geometric chicken coop. And after watching this film, I felt motivated to work harder and think harder in class to come up with better ideas.

An example of the beautiful, original designs prototyped and handmade by the Studio H classroom. This structure serves as a chicken coop. Courtesy of Atod Magazine.

The movie day was the calm before a storm, because right here in our classroom big changes are happening. The greenhouse model-turned chicken coop-turned dog house continues to evolve from its original greenhouse design to better suit its clients (two very energetic dogs). The doorway is now wide enough to accommodate a stockier dog, which will make the design more versatile and appealing.

We’ve added siding! Although it’s not done, the doghouse is no longer a bare-bones frame…plus we got to use a nail gun. Picture courtesy of our Engineering class.

But despite the progress we’ve made, the doghouse is nowhere near done. Currently the siding on the doghouse is only ¾ up, the metal roofing hasn’t been attached, and the outside of the doghouse is still unpainted and has no protection against the elements. Unfortunately we have to put this project aside for now as we move on to the real deal. (Hopefully some of us will be able to put in extra hours on the doghouse over Spring Break.) Next class, we are–drum roll please–starting to frame the real, actual Ann Richards greenhouse! The long process of measuring and cutting wood begins on Thursday, and all of us are so excited to begin.

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