Design Education in New York City

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Terry Deen, a local teacher at Kelvin Grove State College in Queensland, was the 2014 Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Fellow. Thanks to the partnership between the Queensland Government and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, Terry worked at NYC’s iconic Museum Mile experiencing and delivering quality design education via his tenure. Terry will share his key insights and learnings and provide some advice and suggestions for those who are considering applying for the Cooper Hewitt fellowship at our Design Minds PD day with Cooper Hewitt fellow Terry Deen this Friday, March 13 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. The following is a blog Terry logged in November, 2014. 

During my US adventures as Queensland Design Education Fellow, I was on a mission to pay professional visits to spaces and places that were actively engaging with design education. Some of these visits were planned, while others were serendipitous – actually serendipity became a reoccurring theme throughout the fellowship.

As I shared with readers of the Art for All Queenslanders Blog, the focus of my research into design and design education has been the 21st Century skill of empathy.  At an early stage of the fellowship empathy was finding me, in much the same way that people begin to see the same number, symbol or make of car in a multitude of places once they pay it specific attention.

In some instances I hunted empathy down, like my venture into the Cooper Hewitt’s extensive design library, where I found Daniel Pink’s ‘A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the World’.  More serendipitously however, a month later in the Smithsonian Office of Fellows and Interns, Eric Goodman (Director, OFI) mentioned Pink’s recent visit to DC and handed me a signed copy of his latest book as a gift.

Months earlier, when I was in New Orleans at the Smithsonian Design Institute I met the amazing Meredith Davis, who offered to introduce me to three of her PhD students, one of whom happened to be basing his thesis upon empathy in design education.

Once the school year began in NYC I visited a public school in Bushwick Brooklyn, a charter school in Harlem, the New York High School of Art and Design, and the Bronx Construction and Design Academy in South Bronx.  In Bushwick and Harlem, I observed Emily and Rachael respectively, as they delivered the CHSDM’s Ready, Set, Design lesson to middle school students.  The Ready, Set, Design challenge introduces students to design, design thinking and the collaborative act of prototyping a design solution.  At all stages of each 45 minute session, there is an emphasis on ‘the user’ and therefore an emphasis on empathic design.

At the New York High School of Art and Design, I visited animation, photography, painting and architecture classes. The staff were incredibly generous with their time and made no hesitation in asking me to speak to their students.  I was blown away by the energy of the High School.  The students were incredibly receptive and mature in their questions and in sharing the concepts behind their work.  The High School is made up of students from a multitude of New York neighbourhoods, which makes their futures as diverse, bright and unpredictable as students attending leading Design Colleges.

Nathaniel Wight proudly toured me around the Bronx Construction and Design Academy.  I stumbled across the Academy before applying for the fellowship, and found it to be a fascinating example of how educating students in construction should be underpinned by design thinking.  Mr Wight took me straight to the Senior Carpentry workshop, which looked more like a design studio than any high school trade classroom I’ve seen.  The large space had one recently demolished building on the eastern side and one semi-functioning house on the west.  The now demolished house was evaluated by visiting industries experts to be 300K U.S.  The process of building and demolishing each house, complete with electricity and plumbing, begins with students from the architecture class competing for the selection of their house design.

The conversations I shared with Emily, Rachael and Nathaniel on the subway after each respective visit are further examples of how the incidental moments are often the most profound.  In those moments, away from their identities as teachers within a school system, we exchanged perspectives and shared stories.

Design Minds PD day with Cooper Hewitt fellow Terry Deen

Terry Deen, who has recently returned from his fellowship at Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, will share his key insights and learnings, and also provide some advice and suggestions for those who are considering applying for the Cooper Hewitt fellowship at our Design Minds PD day with Cooper Hewitt fellow, March 13. Each ticket includes morning tea and lunch, and a resource folder to take home.

Date: Fri 13 March

Time: 9:00am – 4:00pm

Where: The Edge Auditorium, State Library of Queensland

Ticket: $195, bookings via Eventbrite