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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, they were celebrating classmates who had won the Designers' Choice Award for a project to help students arrive to class on time and ready to learn.  Not ones to rest on their laurels, the six teams in Gina Griffith’s classroom went back to school and quickly got down to business figuring out how they could work together to bring all of their projects to life.  By the end of the school year, these industrious design thinkers had implemented four of their six projects.  

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, the team switched gears and 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 ended because the model was not sustainable during class time.

The class ran into more real world constraints 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 to get one longer-than-normal break between classes each day.  The students worked hard on the challenge of how staff could quickly identify who was on long break and who was not so that safety and order could be 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.   Ms. Griffith’s incoming students will finish up the hall pass project begun last spring before starting on their own projects for the 2018-19 school year, inspired by the persistence, camaraderie, and can-do spirit of their predecessors!