How Might We Make Parker More Accessible for Everyone?

This is the big question that 7th graders examined this year for the interdisciplinary design project. During this fourth iteration of the project, students created 18 projects, proposing ways to make our school a more inclusive place for everyone.

Teachers Anthony Shaker, Angela Miklavcic-Brandon, Steven Files, Liz Villagomez, Kate Tabor, Chris Stader—assisted by STEM Integration teacher Adam Colestock—Librarian Annette Lesak and other members of our school community provided critical mentoring during the project.

Some of the ideas and designs the teams explored were more choices for accessible seating in the auditorium, additional support for finding various school locations using easy-to-read signs and a school map app, and a decrease in the volume of noise during lunch in the cafeteria by adding sound-dampening clouds.

Coaches guided students through the process of design thinking, and a large component of their work was interviewing and listening to others. After empathically collecting information, students worked to define areas of the school where there is room for improvement when viewed through a lens of accessibility. Each team generated possible solutions to the challenges they identified, focusing on a particular area or a segment of the Parker community. After intensive work, students created a prototype, tested it and refined their designs through iteration based on feedback from their test users. It was wonderful to see so many students working collaboratively to, first, become aware of accessibility challenges at Parker, then respond by creatively designing ways to make our spaces more inclusive and accessible for all!

This project grew out of student work across the curriculum this year. From the first weeks of school, when they were challenged to create a tool for the 7th grade trip, to their most recent deep dive into the geometry and volume of the locker bays, each activity has provided them skills and competencies to bring toward understanding the needs of others and designing through prototype to meet those needs.
The 7th grade team is so appreciative of the help and support of the school community and thankful for all the support and help they and our students received from around the Parker community. This project couldn’t work without so many willing to take the time to be interviewed, respond to surveys, offer thoughts on designs and serve as panel judges. Thank you, Parker!
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Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.