Watson Chronicle


Student Opportunities and Student News

MAT Students Participate in Design for Change Cohort

Saturday, May 04, 2019

WCE MAT students Fia Binford, Meagan Denny and Jennifer Velrti participated in a Design for Change cohort with The Exploris School in Raleigh during the spring semester. Design for Change is a framework that assists educators in designing meaningful student-led projects. In 2009, DFC was founded on the belief that all children have the right to a voice on issues that matter to them. Today, it is a global network of educators empowering over 2 million young people to make the world a better place, including across North Carolina.

WCE associate professor Elizabeth Crawford learned about Design for Change and The Exploris School, an international award winning school for their work implementing DFC, when she met teacher and DFC Champion Shannon Hardy at WCE’s 2018 innovation conference. Crawford was immediately intrigued because the DFC goals closely align with her work with UN Sustainable Development Goals and her career objective of engaging teachers and students.

“Through DFC, students are encouraged to analyze local and global issues and to design innovative solutions for them,” Crawford said. “The topics are learner-centered, the process is engaging and the projects always culminate in taking action and giving kids a voice. DFC provides a great framework for enhancing teaching and learning in the elementary classroom.”

In fall 2018, Crawford and WCE professor Susan Catapano visited the Exploris School, and Crawford and Hardy began a collaboration involving the introduction of DFC concepts in WCE MAT classes. In spring 2019, three of Crawford’s students were invited to join 14 in-service teachers as part of The Exploris School’s inaugural cohort to expand Design for Change in North Carolina.

The students attended a one-day workshop in Raleigh in February, and participated in online conferences throughout the semester. In May, the group reconvened in Raleigh to share ways they have integrated DFC principals in their practice and plans for next year.

Fia Binford said she enjoyed participating in the DFC cohort and learned a great deal.

“Visiting the Exploris School and participating in the DFC cohort gave me a great vision for what education can be,” she said. “It inspired me to innovate and advocate in the classroom. DFC is all about engaging students through project-based learning that connects them to the community and a broader world. It was also a great opportunity to connect with other educators and hear about their experiences as they worked to introduce the DFC framework in their classrooms and schools.”

Crawford said her new partnership with Hardy is mutually beneficial.

“Our Watson students benefit from Shannon’s expertise in DFC, and participation in a cohort with experienced in-service teachers helps them grow,” she said. “At the same time, UNCW is providing a pipeline to hire innovative teachers with knowledge and experience in project based learning.”

The Exploris School will host additional Design for Change cohorts in the fall of 2019 (60 educators) and the spring of 2020 (40 educators). Their goal is to build a statewide coalition of innovative educators, students, and community partners using design thinking to solve complex, local problems outlined in the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Goals.

Educators interested in participating in the cohort can contact Elizabeth Crawford at crawforde@uncw.edu or Shannon Hardy at Shannon@exploris.org.

For more information on Crawford’s work as a global teacher educator, visit her website.