As a technology teacher at Jericho Middle School in Long Island, New York, Matthew Silva is constantly looking for ways to infuse design thinking and process into his curriculum. With this goal in mind, he recently challenged his students to solve a problem for their school. Their challenge was to design a parklet for a parking space in front of the school where students wait every day for their parents to pick them up.

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There currently are no safe places where they can gather in front of the school—only a small sidewalk and parking spots. Using a design build teaching method, students went through an authentic design process that included surveying the potential build site and researching other successful parklets on the internet. They even visited the High Line in New York City to experience true urban renewal and how creativity, design, and “space making” can have positive impacts on people and communities.

The students went on to create dozens of sketches, 3D Google SketchUp models, and small scale physical models. After a rigorous process, critique, and gallery installation, together they selected a few designs to construct in full scale on the actual site. The designs are modular and can be quickly rearranged.

The parklets were a big hit for students waiting after school and became a popular lunch spot for some of the staff members. They will be installing a variety of parklet designs from now until the end of the school year and a permanent installation will take place next year in one of their campus gardens.