This past summer Rosewood Intervention Specialist, Rachel Elenbaas, took a class called Unite 4 Insight through the OAISD [Ottawa Area Intermediate School District] and she came away with a project-based lesson for her third and fourth graders that not only taught them real world skills but had them partnering with one of the world’s largest office furniture retailers. “The teacher of the class called Herman Miller to see if they would partner with me. Because they have quite an extensive education program they were happy to do so.”
The project entailed designing a chair, creating a prototype, presenting it to fellow students, collecting feedback through surveys and adjusting the product based on survey results. “The students are so excited about this project. They are working in teams to create a chair and they are able to be creative, yet learn how to use surveys and questionnaires to fine tune their designs to a chair that people would find practical to use in the classroom.”
As with any good community partnership, Herman Miller was present and integral in crafting the lesson plan as well as working with students directly to ensure their success. “Alison Freas is the director of the education department of Herman Miller. She had a unit that she used with a middle school group in Grand Rapids and we tweaked the unit to fit with third and fourth grade. Alison came into my class to help teach the lessons and this has helped a lot since she knows what goes into creating a chair. She knows the language that is used in the business world and this helps the students expand their vocabulary.”
“The main goal of this program is to instill skills for success. Students learn the importance of teamwork, being on time, technology, communication, critical thinking and problem solving, ethical citizenship, personal accountability, collaboration and global thinking.”
While students are busy asking questions about design, technology, ergonomics and completing this assignment on time they may not realize the valuable skills they are being taught as a foundation for this assignment. “Project Based Learning is a way to teach students in a way that relates to real life. Rather than learning the traditional way – workbooks, worksheets, etc. – students solve real life problems in a way that challenges they way they think while using the strategies and methods taught in school.”
Thank you, Rachel and Herman Miller, for the amazing ways you’re going beyond traditional teaching methods to reach our students!