This remotely taught project spanned about 2 months (on a bi-monthly basis) and began with a slide show in which I talked about scale and what it means, including terms such as full scale, life size, small scale, and large scale, as well as concepts such as something being “in scale with” something else.
To begin, we touched upon different kinds of designers, such as architects, landscape designers, urban planners, and industrial designers. The students seemed to understand the importance of designers like these keeping scale in mind when working on their projects—that not taking scale into account could lead to either silly, confusing, or sometimes even unsafe outcomes.
Next, each student was provided with a shell of a room and tasked with laying some flooring over the underlayment. If I had been teaching this project under normal circumstances (i.e., in person) I would have been able to give students choices about flooring, but instead, I chose a nice bamboo flooring made from coffee stirrers.
Aside from the living room shell and flooring, students were also provided with a variety of materials, such as thick and thin craft foam (easily cut with scissors) to make doors and furnishings, etc.; pictures from magazines with views of country and cityscapes to use as outside views when making windows; and quite importantly: a laminated “scale key” showing a grid of ½” squares, each of which represented 1’ in the scale of the (modest) 15’x15’ scale living room. Not only would this be used as a ruler when needed, but it included examples of approximately how big certain items would likely be in 1/24 scale, for students to use for comparison when designing and making architectural details, furnishings, and other items for their living rooms.
Over the weeks during which these projects were in progress, the lessons (via Zoom into classrooms and to remote students) included: Installing Tiny Floorboards, Using the Scale Key, Windows and Doors, Paper People, Couch and Coffee Table, Making Houseplants, and Making Siding for Outside. I also touched upon treatments for the ground “outside” the living rooms.
The 1/24 scale living room was the first remote lesson of the year for me, and as I was gearing up to introduce this project there were a couple of aspects of teaching Shop remotely that I wondered about. One was that wood itself would be largely left out of the equation, and the other was that the open curriculum that I have always believed in for my Shop students would not be possible.
In ordinary times, during a Shop class, while many students are working with wood, others might be working with fabric, yarn, plastic, etc., or using a combination of these materials with wood. Fayerweather’s Shop program, formerly called Woodshop, has always featured an open curriculum (even when I was a Kindergartener here back in 1970)! Each student has always been encouraged and supported to approach the project of their choice.
In teaching remote classes I have found it necessary to incorporate more structure into each lesson, and to supply the same materials to each student in a cohort, as well as that grade band. When Zooming into a classroom, it isn’t feasible to support each student working on a completely different project, but I have been encouraged to see the variety within projects in response to one lesson.
It seems to me that this is due partly to the fact that a critical mass of students is accustomed to a certain amount of latitude in Shop class. And I also like to think that, even as I appear as a giant head on a screen in front of the class, my approach to instruction includes enough openness and support that students still feel encouraged to explore within the assignment and to proceed along their own individual path.
The responses to the 1/24 scale living room project below show a range of imaginations at work and suggest that students were comfortable using the materials supplied in their own unique ways.