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Change Agents of GWJMS

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

When last we left the 8th-grade design teams from Grover Washington, Jr. Middle School who participated in DT Philly 2017-18, they were celebrating some classmates who had won the Designers' Choice Award for a project to help students arrive to class on time and ready to learn.  But they didn't celebrate long...instead, the six teams joined forces and worked together to try implementing four of their respective projects.  We hope their colleagues from other schools across all divisions of DT Philly take note and draw inspiration from the persistence, camaraderie, and can-do spirit of these students.

The project aimed at curbing littering through the use of fun trash cans lives on in Ms. Griffith's classroom, where the full-size "minion" trash can resides and serves to inspire the incoming DT Philly students.  The spice cart project, designed to make lunch more appealing, was a big hit with students in the school, though keeping things neat and getting users to put things back turned out to be more of a challenge than the team anticipated. 

Another unanticipated problem surfaced when the cafeteria staff, who welcomed the spice cart initiative, told the students they could NOT implement another idea--a cereal cart to enhance the existing offerings during lunch time.  District rules prohibited the students from providing alternate meals.  As the students' teacher, Ms. Griffith, pointed out, it was a teachable moment about the challenges of creating change.  Not to be deterred, Ms. Griffith's design team created a mobile cereal bar service which went classroom to classroom (for teachers who signed up to have it) during non-lunch hours.  Students loved it, and were disappointed when the service stopped because the model was not sustainable during class time.

The team encountered another dose of reality on their final project...how to manage personal needs during short transition times so students can arrive to class on time and ready to learn.  The team's initial goal was to create a system that would allow each grade level to get one longer-than-normal break between classes each day.  The team worked hard on the challenge of how staff could quickly identify who was on long break and who was not, to ensure that safety and order were maintained.  But lingering concerns and scheduling difficulties remained, and the students weren't able to advance the idea.  Their work, however, raised awareness about the problem and led to the development of a new hall pass system that addresses some of the needs of both students and staff.  The incoming DT Philly students will finish up the new hall passes designed by their predecessors and put them into service before starting on new challenges of their own choosing.  We can't wait to see what this year's teams will do.