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!

Photo of Jessica Lura

prototype of 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.)

See https://docs.google.com/document/d/1osMu-3l-0X8cE4-fixBqUTR5s9lKcgea03VXEFZqHyg/edit for image

Photo of Jessica Lura

Test of using space/walls public/outside to generate conversation & excitement. Our locker rooms are underutilized space (practically as big as a classroom which means a lot on spatially-challenged campus). To generate excited about an upcoming (student-picked) spirit wear day, a quick prototype of some "teasers" using walls/space to get students talking: https://youtu.be/rz-fzxjBWR8

Photo of Jessica Lura

Some rough prototyping and testing of
Baton Idea:
Bullis Bear Challenge--a modification of the baton 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. umm.. I have pictures but can't upload into a comment. For photos: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yArP9IuJiy7KBAWnVGLuM5ye8AxswoizB-U6oeYGwOQ/edit

Photo of Amelia Shull

My email is ashull@cfsnc.org.

I am realizing it's PT and not ET, so I'll do my best. Will you still be on at 12:30 PT? I could jump in as soon as I can. Would love to participate! Will aim to spend time Monday with the Google doc.

Photo of Elysa Fenenbock

Hi Amelia,
Yes, we're planning to chat for about an hour. Join whenever you can. We'll try to keep track of our thoughts in the doc too.

Photo of Amelia Shull

Moss, I have to revisit that book, but it was my favorite for years during art school! I was recently shown the work of Buff Diss. http://buffdiss.com/#eurydice-lost-1
I bought a ton of colored masking and electrical tape for my high school art classes, anticipating using it in my Design In Action class. This class was developed through my experiences using the dSchool's materials on Design Thinking, and it's my second year teaching it. I'm so excited by this Walk-Waze topic! 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. I will wait to see what emerges from my student interviews, but I have begun to imagine a number of projects--
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.
Mile markers. Our school is pre-K through 12th grade. We could make smallish signs that have chalk boards, and there could be cool events that happened at those locations updates as they occur. "Nora built a fairy house in LS today!" "Julia was a great senior leader at the retreat!"

The signs could also, on occasion, act as a school-wide scavenger hunt- so 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.

Oh, what about Innovation alerts?? It could be that these small signs are mounted or on sign posts around campus, and current exciting events or things worth sharing could be announced there.

Niranjan, the snakes and ladders game sounds exciting. We have a very dynamic campus in terms of staircases and bridges, and there was an idea recently (came from the Senior class) to add colorful footprints (truly using tempera-dipped feet) across the bridges leading to activities. I'd love to imagine that we could have a moment during certain days (special schedules, etc) where we could play a giant snakes and ladders game all over our campus- certain clues or even assessments could happen over the course of the 'course'.

Elysa, I really like the baton idea. I was reminded of this cool stop animation graffiti artist's video-
-so the mural or panels of a project keeps moving and changing as different classes take it on. Maybe each teacher gets a number of colorful sticky notes to prototype something that could end up more permanent.

I'll try to be more succinct in the future! Just wanted to share a number of ideas here as I thought of them. Cheers!

Photo of Elysa Fenenbock

This is so great. I love hearing these stories. Don't worry about being succinct at all! Also, I finally started a google doc (https://docs.google.com/a/google.com/document/d/1wsVtoqeEPy2JDOa-eTdbyni1pCpVYTSrVBFN74H66CY/edit?usp=sharing) so we can work together on building a few experiments. I'd love to see some pictures or sketches of what you've already done/are thinking about; perhaps you can drop some in the doc? We're going to try to have a hangout tomorrow to build on some of these ideas. I know timing may not be ideal for you, but we'd love to have you join if you're able. 12pmPT Send me your email if you'd like me to add you to the hangout.

Photo of Moss Pike

Seconded, Amelia; don't worry about being succinct! Love the ideas in your comment, and I can't wait to think through them. Based on Irwin's work, I'm now excited to consider interactive space in a new light, with a focus on perception. Thanks for sharing the BUFF DISS page--it's amazing (can't wait to show students Dido and Aeneas)!

Your "mile marker" idea is fantastic and is right in line with the type of thinking that can affect community culture. Interested in the "innovation alerts" idea too and am thinking about possible prototypes, especially those that are cross-curricular in any way.

Hope you can join the GHO tomorrow; if not, we'll pick up the conversation asap!

Photo of Niranjan Vasireddy

Something I thought you would like. I have taken the original snakes and ladders game and used it as an idea for Google - Bring your child to work day in Hyderbad, India. This goes with the theme on how I have used the floor as a interactive surface for people to understand Google's timeline history. https://goo.gl/n0pss4
I am trying to think how might we use this in a school setting. Any ideas?

Photo of Elysa Fenenbock

Hi Niranjan,
Thanks for sharing. This is a super fun idea that I can imagine Googlers would love for 'take your child to work day.' I can imagine doing something similar with any kind of history lesson in school.

Additionally, I can imagine making a giant gameboard/ or hopskotch on a playground where you can have entire classes playing against each other. You could develop a set up multiple choice questions where students only move forward if they answer correctly, or a student-friendly trivial pursuit.

I wonder what kinds of lessons you could share with teachers this way? What if you developed a sort of 'baton' to pass from teacher to teacher down a hallway. Every time the teacher participated in a given challenge, then the matching 'fun sidewalk' could be built to the classroom. It would make it obvious when a teacher wasn't participating..a sort of peer pressure to engage. (stay tuned for a sketch)

Photo of Niranjan Vasireddy

Those are some cool ideas. I was sure that the snakes and ladders might trigger something. Can't wait for your sketch.

Here is another thing I thought you might like as you are into game design and think in terms of incorporating game design and game dynamics.
How might we use this card method at school? The reason I like this is due to the simplicity of implementation, if we come up with a generic framework. Later we could use these as clues etc hidden at different places.

Photo of Moss Pike

I recently read Weschler's excellent biography of Robert Irwin (link below), compiled from 30 years of interviews with Irwin. Basically, his career explored how people experienced his art and what it then did for their perception of the world around them. I didn't know before reading the book that he's the one who designed the garden at the Getty center.

Your post makes me think about how we can use space in a similar way: creating art for all to interact with that challenges our perception and encourages a greater awareness in us. How might we use walls, gardens, and other public spaces to create the kind of art that makes us think? Art that invites us to slow down and examine our environment, including the people within it? A very interesting idea!


Photo of Elysa Fenenbock

Thanks for sharing this Moss! I'll have to add that to my book wishlist.

Photo of Colleen McGuire

This brings to mind the footprints the pre-school teachers leave in the hallways for the kids to find the gingerbread man... Even though the activity is for the little ones... Everyone enjoys seeing them. 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 :)

Photo of Elysa Fenenbock

Thanks for sharing. I love the idea of cryptic messages! I think adding an element of fun and play is a great way to garner excitement and engagement.

Photo of Niranjan Vasireddy

Elysa & Team,
Kindly check out the problem definition sheet I have created and feel free to edit it to so we we can capture your thoughts on this. - https://goo.gl/gWAA7O

Few Ideas I found that could be done:
- Small Lab learning - http://goo.gl/Zcq4oi
- Hopscotch Intersections - http://goo.gl/XNb4sn
- Happy Wall - https://youtu.be/X_VLmpG9Byw
- Masking Tape - Create neighbourhoods, perimeter, area measuring,
fraction hopscotch,
- Basketball court sticker in front of dustbins https://www.pinterest.com/pin/29554941275448152/

I have posted my ideas and some ideas you have mentioned in the uploaded document.

Photo of Niranjan Vasireddy

Hi Elysa, Thank you for the invite. Love to be a part of the team and looking forward to contributing. Not sure how to collaborate with the team yet. I have sent an email to the Guild team and waiting to hear back from them. You can send me an email @ helloniranjan@kidihou.com and i can send you some stuff that may start to help us get started.

Photo of Niranjan Vasireddy

You should check out Small Lab Learning's - Embodied Learning. As described on their website - Embodied learning is kinesthetic, collaborative, and multimodal.
Embodied learning is an emerging field that blends the learning sciences and human computer interaction. They use the floor and walls for the class to interact and learn - http://smallablearning.com/embodied-learning/

One can also see it in action at in - Color Mixer Scenario - In this scenario students learn how the primary colors mix together using their bodies to show the saturation of the color. Developed by the Institute of Play. https://youtu.be/uoSAQtz926w

Photo of Amelia Shull

I'm imagining my Portfolio class taking on the challenge of creating a welcoming path to the Studio, and each year the new group can re-imagine it together. As we are in a separate building, it seems likely that walking over the transition-identified space would allow students to feel more inspired to shift gears. Great!

Photo of James Campbell

Hi Elysa, I like the idea of Walk-Waze. It seems like a wonderful idea for young children and visual learners. I wonder how it would be received with older students. This would work great in a school that has a rotating schedule to remind students of the day & classes associated with that day.

What if you started using it as a class management tool and then expanded to a grade level.