Kyle Branchesi has lived and worked across the world. He has been a designer for the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow, a project manager in Shanghai, and recently an Architecture graduate student and researcher at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Now, Kyle is living in Glasgow, Scotland, working as the NuVuX Fellow at Kelvinside Academy’s Innovation School. Working alongside Kyle is Innovation School educator Veronica Lynch, a creative education expert with degrees from the Glasgow School of Art and the University of Glasgow. Veronica’s diverse background ranges from authoring children’s books, participating in the prestigious Cakefest (making architecture with cake!), and recently developing a celebrated kinetic art installation. Kyle and Veronica were excited about collaborating to explore exciting design education possibilities when the Covid-19 pandemic interrupted their plans.
However, after a series of lockdowns and cautious reopenings, the educators had an experience that lifted their spirits. In the fall of 2020, the Innovation School expanded the NuVuX studio model - hands-on innovation and design education - to the Junior School students (ages 4-11). Previously, studio access had been reserved for the older Senior School students. Junior School students participated in-person in a series of themed ‘Mini Studios.’ In the Parrots Mini Studio, students made large-scale cardboard parrots that included a simple mechanism allowing the model’s wings to flap (Figure 1). In another Mini Studio, students created interactive “articulated figures'' after learning about simple mechanics, model building, and construction techniques (Figure 2).
According to Veronica, Mini Studio experiences “allow the students to develop skills, knowledge, and experiences that are progressive and will enhance their problem-solving abilities.” Moreover, Kyle finds that these kinds of learning experiences “help prepare pupils at an early age for more advanced and often non-linear design processes”. He added that these kinds of engagements provide the students with the confidence to handle the open-ended studio-based learning they’ll encounter when they’re older. Beyond the educational benefits, the educators have observed the Junior School students to be highly engaged throughout their hands-on sessions and frequently tell their instructors that Innovation Studio is their favorite subject.
Kyle, Veronica, and Innovation School Director, David Miller, are presently designing a forthcoming series of Mini Studios, which will launch after Easter break. They are working closely with the Junior School leadership to tailor the upcoming studios to specific learning outcomes, including pre-determined technical skills to be developed in each age group through studio-based learning. The themes of the forthcoming Mini Studios will range from ‘The Circus’ to ‘Ancient Greece and Rome’. The educators aim to make the next activities even more open-ended allowing the young students to explore their own ideas, interests, and creative pathways.