Shared by Brad Blue, New Century School

The temptation to ‘get the classroom ready’, every year, every fall, is strong. Most walls are bare and rooms sterile – though clean, finally! I resist hanging generic posters and other fillers. In the early years, this was a difficult decision. After all, I do want to create a welcoming learning space. Now, years later, the decision is moot. The classroom is adorned with tributes to past exhibitions, competitions, and student artifacts. And the walls are memory-rich, evoking some great and sometimes difficult experiences.

The EMDC is a unique opportunity for students to build a low-cost, theme-based machine and compete with other teams across the region. The maximum machine size (5 ft x 5 ft x 5 ft) effectively means that once the machine is fatigued and exhausted from the event the components and ‘steps’ can be repurposed as artifacts and displayed as tributes to the efforts. Relics, residues, story prompts of ‘I remember when…’, or ‘my sister was on that team’, and queries of future designers: ‘How did that work?’, i.e., the machines take on new lives as tributes and learning artifacts, nostalgia with benefits.

The ‘things’ emerged from ideas and the tributes afford an opportunity to remember and share the ideas that prompted the design and build ideas. The corporal presence of ‘stuff’ elicits observations and questions. And opportunities for students to tell the stories… and they are so proud of the artifacts. Maybe that pride and student ‘voice’ is the elixir that makes an artifact a tribute.

For me, remembering past events (and years and now decades), is an antidote to ward off the temptation to NEVER do that again – after all, it is so MUCH work – orchestrating chaos with purposeful failure! When I look at the tributes, I have a sense that all that work was efficacious and worthwhile. And every year, the repository grows and new tributes fill the walls.

These ideas are not original. When I visited Medtronic years ago, I was impressed with the walls of displays, and tributes – medical devices that seem primitive now as well as nanotechnology that curves into the future.

Otherwise, I reread, An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship (by Ron Berger) and visit HighTechHigh, especially in the winter when San Diego seems like a good idea and a respite from the Minnesota winter.