Designers in the Classroom

by JustbeFRANK on January 14, 2010

Originally inspired by a collaborative project between grade three teacher Kathleen Schartz and designer Todd Falkowsky in the fall of 2002, Designers in the Classroom became a fully realized education program at the Design Exchange in 2003.

Sponsored by TD Bank Financial Group and The Ontario Arts Council, this highly successful educational program aims to show students the connection between art and design, while raising awareness and understanding of design and how it is an essential part of our everyday lives.  The program also strives to inspire students to pursue careers in the creative and artistic fields, as well as engage practicing designers in their communities by providing them an opportunity to give back in a new way.

Each participating designer leads the students through the program with the assistance of the classroom teacher and the Design Exchange.  They prepare a project plan that fully integrates design and the design process with current art curriculum.  After preliminary discussions and meetings with the classroom teacher, the program runs over the course of eight weeks, during which the designer visits the class for approximately twenty hours of total teaching time.  During the visits, the designer takes on the bulk of the teaching responsibilities and introduces the students to the work of design.

During the program, students learn about form and function, as well as the general principles of design.  Each designer provides a context by presenting examples in art and design history as well as contemporary art and design works, and leads their students through a project.  Each project follows the design process and includes the development of a portfolio of preliminary sketches and drawings leading to a final prototype.

The culmination of this program is an exhibition of the student-produced work at the Design Exchange each spring.  This exhibition also highlights the designers through a profile and photo of the work currently being produced in their practice.  The exhibition is a great opportunity for all of the students and their families to see the work on display.
For the past two years, FRANK has sent Richard Carmichael out to local public schools in the Toronto Area, to engage with the community and participate the Designers in the Classroom series presented by the Design Exchange in Toronto. This year Richard lectured at Orde Street Public School in Toronto. He partnered up with Ms. Karen Hughes and spoke to her Grade 2 and 3 class about the evidence of design all around us. How it permeates our lives on every level. How that impacts us. He talked about its power to inform, to inspire, to influence and to affect positive change in an embattled world. How anybody, no matter how small, has the ability to take on a challenge and make a difference. Stay tuned for more about this.

As always, it has been an incredible experience, both for the teachers and the students. This year, Richard will be reporting back to you the curious minded, about how the process went and to show you some examples of the work that was produced by the kids in his class.

This year, the final show and exhibition of the students work is to be held at the Design Exchange and for the very first time is to be included as part of the TIDF: the Toronto International Design Festival from January 19 – 24, 2010. Come see the show at the DX. Its on now and open all this week. You will see the amazing work of some very bright and talented kids from Ms. Hughes class at Orde Street, plus that of all the other talented designers and classrooms participating in the program. Get out there, support your community, be inspired by tomorrows leaders.

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Incidentally, the TIDF is a new festival celebrating local and international design. Between January 20 – 24, a variety of venues around the city will host contemporary design events, including exhibits, symposiums, lectures, and fairs.

Complete TIDF Showroom listing here.

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