This week I presented at Cheltenham Elementary School’s Women in Science Fair as the first ever “computer” participant in the fair’s history. I decided to teach the children the basic design principles – C.R.A.P. – though I had to rearrange the letters – P.A.R.C – to take into consideration my K-5th grade audience. So we learned about Proximity, Alignment, Repetition and Contrast by assembling a poster about Toy City.
To prepare for the fair, I used stencils, spray paint and markers to create an interactive poster board. In the center, I put the pieces of information for the Toy City website on velcro so the children could move the information around and see the results spatially on the board.
The day began with the Kindergarteners who, we all agreed, were too young to grasp the “science” part of the fair. They did understand the mission given to them by their teachers: Get at least 6 sign-offs from the different tables indicating you visited. It probably wasn’t until the 3rd graders that the students really started to grasp the concepts of layout and design. I think this is a big take-away for anyone else out there keen on teaching design to younger children.
The typical conversation with each student went this way. After approaching, I would say:
Lindsay: Hi there, do you like to play with computers?
Lindsay: What do you like to do on computers?
Student: Play gaa-a-ames!
Lindsay: Oh what kind of games?
Student: [INSERT SOME GAME I DON’T KNOW]
Lindsay: Well do you want to play a game today?
Lindsay: We’re going to design a website! Have you ever done that?
Student: <shakes head>
Lindsay: Well let’s design a website for ToyCity, the BEST Playground & Toy store in Philadelphia. Before we begin, lets organize the information into groups (prompt them to organize all the pieces on the table. pieces that were similar were also in the same color).
The groups of information were: Name of the Store, Taglines, Products & Availability. I walked them through each one, pointing out principles of alignment and repetition. I found Contrast was almost negligible in this exercise.
I think the highlight of the morning was the one 4th grader who, when asked what he likes to do most on the computer, answered enthusiastically, “Search facts on Wikipedia!” And when I asked him if he wanted to design a website, he cooed extra excitedly “I’ve always wanted to do that!” Unfortunately, his teacher chirped for all her students less than 20 seconds into the exercise.
Here’s the full slideshow of photos: