Article by Jiyoo Jye
From interactive kinetic sculptures to emotive communication devices, the NuVuX partnership with Elisabeth Morrow School’s Morrow House (Grades 5-8) is off to an energetic start. Elisabeth Morrow School (EMS) and NuVuX are working together to bring NuVu studio-based design education to students across the school using a unique approach that includes both direct teaching and curriculum support.
Ben Johnson, the NuVuX Fellow at EMS, partnered with two science teachers, to lead the “Cyborg Evolution” studio in the fall of 2021. In their first ever studio-based learning experience, students explored human biology and recent advances in bioengineering to inform their creation of futuristic robotic body extensions that help the wearer accomplish a task. The students created projects that ranged from practical to provocative. One project team crafted a vest for their final project that allows the wearer to express their emotions nonverbally (image: top left). While another group built an external heart pump system, allowing for mechanical intervention if needed (image: top left).
The eighth-graders at EMS will continue their creative design journey through their second studio, “Mechanics of Play”, which just kicked off. In this studio, students will create kinetic sculptures that tell compelling stories through movement. Through the studio process, they will learn how to harness mechanical systems to create interactive elements while applying physics principles to their projects. The marriage of NuVu design pedagogy and the EMS eighth-grade science curriculum has led to stellar experiences for students and teachers alike, as well as novel final projects.
In addition to the eighth-grade studios, Ben has also been working closely with fifth-grade teachers at EMS to develop a new four-week studio intensive that will be taught across the entire fifth-grade cohort. The studio, titled “Portals to the Unknown”, is inspired by the novel Out of My Mind, a suggested reading for the fifth-grade students. In the story, the protagonist is determined to communicate despite the immense barriers imposed by cerebral palsy. In the studio, students will design communication devices that act as gateways - or portals - to transmit information in the form of feelings, perceptions, experiences, and thoughts. The interdisciplinary nature of the “Portals of the Unknown” studio has led to excitement from the students, who eagerly engaged in a recent brainstorming session (image: bottom left).
By leveraging his fellow teachers’ expertise and the collaborative spirit found throughout the Morrow House, Ben has developed a unique hands-on curriculum that allows students to apply the learnings gained in core subjects to novel design projects.