News from Room 402 / September 2012

Bai Tu Long Bay fishing village, Vietnam. Photo credit – Liz and Tony Burrill, July 2012

Above: Ms. Fay and I traveled to Southeast Asia this summer, thanks to a Fund for Teachers grant we received through our work with The Sixteen Project. Learn more here, and if you’re a teacher, check out

Cartography: This course is all about mapping. We look at maps from political, artistic, digital, emotional and mathematical perspectives, and we ask questions about how images are used to illustrate statistics and tell stories. We began the course by drawing outlines of the United States from memory, analyzing map projections, drawing US states at various scales, and considering the problems that result from translating 3D spaces to 2D surfaces. We’re preparing to examine political borders and construct paper mache globes! Learn more about the course at

Design: This course is about creative problem solving. We began by designing gifts to respond to a partner’s weakness, speed dating to facilitate conversation and empathy/understanding for others, and a Project Runway challenge for some quick prototyping. The first challenge of the course is inspired by Jamie Oliver’s campaign to help young people make healthier eating choices. (See details of the challenge on OpenIDEO.) That project will run through the creative process by first determining what factors influence young people’s eating decisions, identifying a specific problem, brainstorming solutions to this problem, and prototyping and testing that solution.

Sixteen: This is a cultural anthropology course that investigates coming-of-age in New York City and around the world. We began with a few classic intro-to-anthro texts (Nacirema, Eating Christmas in the Kalahari), and are now reading “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down,” the true account of a Hmong family’s encounter with western medicine as refugees in California. (I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in ethics, medicine, or culture.) We’ve touched on the work of Napoleon Chagnon, the famous (and controversial) anthropologist, engaged in some preliminary ethnographic fieldwork (through a project that asked students to document their daily lives in photos), and have considered the extent to which language influences thought. We’ll be doing a field trip to Chinatown for dim sum on Tuesday, and students will be creating a mini documentary about that experience.

And more: The Brooklyn Robot Foundry is looking for high school interns. They understand that iSchool students can’t get to Brooklyn until 4, and are willing to accommodate. Please let me know if you’re interested – they’d really like to work with the iSchool. I’ll be attending the Cooper Hewitt Teen Design Fair on October 15 with iSchool students who are interested in pursuing design-related interests in high school, college and beyond. I went last year AND MET TIM GUNN, and look forward to going again. All students are invited to join, please RSVP ASAP.

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