As part of the inaugural/proof of concept year of the design lab in my school, students in the design lab will be observing, empathizing with users, researching classroom design, and finally designing the layout and furnishings of the design-lab to meet the needs not only of the design-lab students but also all the English classes I must teach. Differing needs will call for them to recognize the needs for flexibility, mobility, and also to design for different types of learners and teaching strategies.
Students will conduct interviews with English students, teachers, custodians, administration, and other users. They will develop their own questions, take photos, and build low-fi prototypes to help them write a grant to local foundations for money to fund their vision.
Doing this will help them inquire as to "Why is this classroom the way it is"--purposefully unfinished in some areas, rigidly structured in other areas, and somewhat cluttered--and empower them to build answers to the question "How can we make it better?" Two questions all designers ask themselves. But these are also two questions that go straight to the civic heart of education, and two questions without which little, if any change, is ever made.
However, these are also two questions that students are rarely empowered to ask, let alone answer, in any real-world project.
After completing this redesign, students will move on to a larger challenge: redesigning the library of the main campus's middle school.