Walk-Waze: Every surface is fair game.

Design physical cues for every available space/walkway in order to shake up expectations in the classroom and at school.

Photo of Elysa Fenenbock
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There have been so many great ideas for rethinking walls in classrooms and around campus, that it got me thinking opportunities for designing in other unused and ubiquitous spaces in school. I believe that designing the right physical cues for people makes a tremendous difference in setting the stage for new ways of working and collaborating.

What if we took over the floors and walkways leading into and around classrooms, teachers' lounges, and the school at large? From the red carpet to aisles lined with flower petals, people are accustomed to recognize when walkways are being marked for something out of the ordinary.

What if:

-How Might We questions peppered the floors?
-Project ideas could be voted on using ink and footprints.
-An innovation red carpet was rolled out before any collaborative meeting?

How else can you imagine using the floors to help send a message, create new routines, or invite people to collaborate?


This sort of approach to designing physical space outside the classroom could affect the community in a number positive ways. Generally, the ideas shared below can increase the level of engagement and overall perception of space, including our relationships to our surroundings. By bringing innovation outside of the classroom and sharing it in common space, we may be able to prime our community to both be more collaborative with our work and creative in our methods of sharing it. Thus, the activities below can create the types of norms that facilitate and sustain a culture of innovation within a school.

What might this look like? (Check out the Google Doc as we evolve for more details)

    MILE-MARKERS: to highlight innovative happenings at certain locations around campus.

    • Format: smallish sign made out of a chalkboard, a traffic cone with a small sign sticking out of it, or hacking a janitorial sign to say ‘Caution, innovation happening here!’
    • Innovation Alert: Version 1
      • Given from one teacher to another, or a student to a classroom. Put the sign outside the classroom when you see a teacher doing something innovative, and capture a headline of the innovation. “Mrs. Green gets innovation alert! She and her students iterated on their hacked space today to make it more student friendly! It’s cool because she is constantly evolving her class to design a better experience.”
        • ________ (teacher) gets innovation alert!
        • He did ___________ .
        • It’s cool because________.
      • Prototype:
      • Image title

    • Innovation Alert: Version 2  

        Small signs are mounted or on sign posts around campus, and current exciting events or innovative things worth sharing 
        could be announced there.              

        • Example: “Every once in a while, I'll leave cryptic messages on the walls in the hall to get a buzz going about some event from our Maker Day to Mole Day...If the note or messages are numbered - kids will make it a point to find them all”
        • First Prototype Below: 
          • Not cryptic but trying to get “buzz” for the first spirit day (and the locker rooms are the most under utilized spaces where all 6-8 spend time). 
          • Prototype V2: Feedback, "students did stop and have full conversations about the sign today after it was put up--what were the robots? who is Kieran? what does it all mean...

      Innovation Alert: Version 3

      • Sign as a school-wide scavenger hunt
        • Example: One sign could ask for folks to find the place where Chemistry is studied (so they go to the sign outside the Science Resource building), then from there, maybe they are asked to go to the place where the cardboard city is being built...this offers cross unit connections and awareness of innovations across campus. 

    TRANSFORMATIONAL SIDEWALKS: to designate crossing from one experience or mindset to another (electrical tape/chalk)

        • Format: Use a simple chalk outline or more visually exciting installation (inspiration)
        • Curriculum Zone: for example, approach and discussion might change based on the zone you walk through.Create a story as you walk through the zone: first zone/chapter could be in the rhyming zone, next is the science zone where you discuss the biology of the landscape, etc.
        • Design Zone: each zone designates a part of the process.
          • Zone 1: Observe
          • Zone 2: Interpret
          • Zone 3: Ideate
          • Zone 4: Prototype/Build
        • Imaginarium Zone:
          • Week 1: Jungle Zone (design solutions for Jungle Life)
          • Week 2: History Zone (design solutions or Historical eras)
          • Week 3: Urban Zone (design solutions for Urban Life)
        • Living Blueprints:Use tape as a tool to rethink space in your school.Example: My class's first big project is to go and 
          interview the 3rd and 4th graders, for which actual classroom space and walkways are currently unavailable. The brand 
          new building isn't ready for occupancy yet, so the teachers took the kiddos to a cardboard museum art exhibit, set up a huge
           tent, and every student, with a partner, is building their own cardboard building- ultimately making their own cardboard 
          city next to the almost open new building. Using the colored tape to create directions from one building to the next. We 
          could use some color theory, and begin with one end of the spectrum and end up at the other end.

    BATION: Pass an innovation baton that leaves a physical trail showing where it’s been, and where it’s stuck.

  • Format: Create any kind of ‘baton’ that can be passed from class to class: could be a plastic shovel, a James Bond envelope that contains a mission, or a special flag. Design a walkway to follow the path of the baton: yellow brick road, footprints to match your school mascot, special streamers, etc.
  • Instigate a design/innovative challenge
    • Example: Theme: Making Learning more Joyful
      • HMW make this lesson more joyful?
      • HMW create more joyful moments in the classroom?
  • Upon completion, the baton gets passed to the next class and the corresponding ‘track’ is is left to show that the class has completed the challenge.
  • Suggestions:
    • let kids choose the challenge for the next class.
    • challenges could be class-to-class or teacher-to-teacher
    • challenges may be completed in class or outside depending on how they relate to current curriculum
  • Baton Prototype: Bullis Bear Challenge--a modification of the baton idea
    • Idea: Bear prints leading up to the classroom with a sign on the door that says, “"You've been challenged by the Bullis bear" and an envelope with directions.Inside the envelope, there is a letter that includes, “ You have been challenged by the Bullis bear. Will you accept the challenge? Your task, if you choose to accept it, is to brainstorm and come up with an idea to help the younger students follow the six character pillars. “Once you have completed your task, you need to decide who at south should be challenged next. On the golden footprint, using a whiteboard marker, write the name of the class you would like to challenge. return the golden footprint to Mrs. Lukas. DO NOT TELL THEM that they are receiving the challenge-it should be a surprise. Once the class has completed the challenge, they will receive ______________ to put on the window, facing the quad, to show everyone that they have participated in the Bear Challenge.
  • Another Baton Challenge: Take over entry ways to each building: (math, modern languages, humanities...) give a set of supplies ask students to imagine what they could add to the entries of their spaces. 
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  • INTERSECTING SPACE: HM you highlight what’s going on inside the classroom outside through materials and textures.
    • Visual project where the overlap is.
    • Example: Making the science visual.Not about an ‘art project’ but about showing the elements of the periodic table/school.
    • What are the ‘essential’ elements to science? to grammar? to geography?
    • A  department or content area starts the “train” by taking a key concept and visualizing it or giving life to it in some interactive way. For example, a geometry class could chalk out the geometry of various spaces on campus (e.g., something like this “Math Door” on a larger scale).
    • The next department is then challenged with reframing the space in some way that’s germane to their content area. They consider how the initial idea can be transformed by their own area and build it out however they see fit.
    • As kids build out the next car in the train, they will justify their transformations by writing short “museum”-style labels wherever possible.
    • The train continues through all departments or content areas, until it returns to the initial car, which will finally build a story narrating the entire process. The story could be composted with a series of narrated images or with narrated video.
    • Prototype: each unit will receive tape, string, paper and a few markers. Think "UP"- example: a long roll of string that banners are hung from, each unit gets an entire skein and the string came from one starting place.
    • **Collaborate with teachers that feel less visual. 

Ways to Share:

The installations or artifacts build through the activities described above are intended to be public and viewable by everyone within the school community, with the goal of creating an innovative culture through inspiring and engaging space. Ideally, students, faculty/staff, and parents take the time to interact with the work.

The space can also be easily shared on social media, with the use of a dedicated hashtag for the community (e.g., #LeydenPride used by the East Leyden HS in Chicago). Facebook groups, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and other forms of social media could be quite useful in creating a wider audience for the students’ work.

This project connects well with the What If Videos concept where the videos could capture some of the innovations around campus. Alternatively, the What If videos could prompt a challenge to be run through one of the experiences like with the Baton outline.

Evaluation results

8 evaluations so far

1. Potential for Impact: Imagine this solution had near perfect implementation. To what extent would this solution bring about a culture of innovation within a school or classroom?

A lot! This solution would greatly bring about a culture of innovation in schools or classrooms. - 50%

Somewhat. This solution would somewhat bring about a culture of innovation in schools or classrooms. - 37.5%

Not much. This solution might help with other things, but I don't see it really bringing about a culture of innovation within schools or classrooms. - 12.5%

2. Feasibility and Fit: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: If this solution were available to me right now, I would be able to use it with relatively low investment. (i.e. money, time, or skills).

Strongly agree (this solution strongly aligns to my/my school's current capacities). - 50%

Agree. - 37.5%

Neutral. - 12.5%

Disagree. - 0%

Strongly disagree (this solution would take a big lift in resources to pull off). - 0%

3. Adaptability: I could imagine this solution working well in a variety of school and classroom contexts across a diverse set of needs.

Absolutely! I could see this working for a variety of schools and classrooms with different or unique needs. - 62.5%

Somewhat. I could see this working for many schools and classrooms, but it might need some adjusting to fit a broad diversity of contexts. - 37.5%

Not a lot. This seems like it might be better suited to only a few contexts. - 0%

4. Scalability: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: This idea could be adopted by an ever-growing number of teachers or students without requiring significant changes.

Strongly agree (this solution could easily scale without any significant changes). - 42.9%

Agree. - 42.9%

Neutral. - 14.3%

Disagree. - 0%

Strongly disagree (this solution would require significant changes in order to properly scale). - 0%

5. Desirability: Do you wish this solution were available to you right now?

1 - Not a lot. There's not a big need for this right now and/or we use something already that fulfills a similar purpose in my school or classroom. - 0%

2 - 0%

3 - 25%

4 - 25%

5 - A lot! There's nothing like this already and I'd love to have it in my school or classroom. - 50%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Bo Adams

I love the idea of the mile markers and innovation alerts. I just Slacked your post to my MVIFI team. This is such an elegantly simple idea that could transform a culture and confidence of a people and place. We've been talking about putting out sandwich boards like those that announce menus on sidewalks outside of restaurants. I think your ideas are a real stretch better.

Photo of Elysa Fenenbock

Thanks Bo. The team has been awesome in developing this idea. We'd love to see what your group prototypes!

Photo of Moss Pike

Thanks, Bo! I too was fascinated by the original idea, and I'm excited to see how it's evolved over the past few weeks. Can't wait to see some prototypes!

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