A cozy place for quiet moments: a year spent making it happen!
In a school environment where project-based learning and community-based experiences are highly prioritized, quiet and personal spaces are sometimes hard to come by. It’s no secret all students have different personalities, backgrounds and learning preferences, making it hard for schools to craft a learning environment that benefits everyone. Inevitably, every student will experience overwhelming emotions at some point in their academic career. And without self-regulation or a safe place to escape, these emotions can spiral.
Cheyenne Frederick, a senior at FlexTech Novi, realized her campus lacked quiet, private spaces for students to work. So, when tasked with creating a project that would impact her community, she and a 2018 graduate came up with the idea to create a “cozy cove.”
The cozy cove has become a designated area in the building where students can go to calm down and find peace and comfort away from the hustle and bustle of other students and staff.
“The idea for the cozy cove came from a structure within the classrooms of an elementary school I volunteered at,” Frederick said. “They used the space as a peace corner in their classrooms, and I thought high school students could also benefit from something like that.”
Frederick was able to take this idea and turn it into a physical space thanks to Project Make it Happen, FlexTech High School’s concept for the 2017 LRNG Innovators Challenge grant. Project Make it Happen brought together FlexTech High School-Novi and The Village Workshop, a community makerspace in Northville, Michigan, to engage students in projects that nurtured their love for design and making–but most importantly, helped students respond to a need in their school, local, or global community. Students gained access to the tools, technologies and resources to execute large-scale, interest-driven design projects and cultivated transferable skills so they can excel in design related fields.
First students completed 4 mini projects in the following departments: Metal Shop, Machine Shop, Wood Shop, and Textiles. They learned how to use the plasma cutter, laser engraver, vertical mill, embroidery machine, and welder. Check out a quick clip here: Sawing at The Village Workshop Then they took on individual projects that addressed community needs.
“This space has impacted many students by giving them a space away from the classroom and their classmates to be themselves and to be calm,” Frederick said. She noted that many students working on group projects use the cozy cove to get away from the noise of other groups so they can focus on their own work.
By using a light color scheme, having comfortable furniture, providing books and coloring options and allowing the use of a privacy curtain, the cozy cove becomes a visible reminder to all students that it is a safe and peaceful place on campus when they need to get away.
The cozy cove is an example of how education and positive mental health practices don’t have to be mutually exclusive. By incorporating little changes into student’s daily school routines, the two can work together for an overall happier and healthier student. Frederick explained the hope is that a physical place where students can find peace will eventually enable them to find that same peace within themselves, regardless of where they are.
Frederick dreams of becoming a doctor one day because of her passion for helping others. Her creation of the cozy cove is making a difference for current FlexTech Novi students and no doubt will continue to help future students as well.
“My hope is that this space continues to be a place where students are comfortable going when they feel anxious, depressed, overwhelmed or when they really just need to focus,” she said.
Teaching 21st Century Skills Through Project Management
In addition to the Cozy Cove, teams of students constructed outdoor seating for lunch time use, which the school lacked, and bee boxes for a non-stinging, actively pollinating variety of bee. Addressing off-campus needs, one group constructed checkerboards for the local children’s hospital, and a student who volunteers at a local senior living center designed custom seating, the design emerging from a close study of the residents’ needs and preferences. Another group was passionate about photography and constructed a photo development booth for the school’s art department to develop traditional black and white photographs.
One of the most exciting and challenging parts of Project Make it Happen was relinquishing control over to the students and allowing them to propose and manage a project from concept to product. We handed over some high level responsibilities to the students and they thrived. We expected them to survey needs in their communities, propose solutions, narrow down a concept, develop a project budget, and execute the final product design using the sills they learned at The Village Workshop. We focused on on 21st century learning skills over content. To assist with the project planning process, the maker teacher gave students this form.
Students worked from January-April on their independent projects. At the halfway mark, each group presented one problem of practice to the high school staff and the FlexTech staff provided them with some possible solutions and resources to help move them forward.
Project Make it Happen culminated with a public showcase at The Village Workshop. Students presented their final products, fielded questions, and celebrated their success!
FlexTech intends to build on the success of this cohort and is currently seeking out the resources to run an additional cohort. We are hopeful we can expand on this experience and partner with a local community college to issue dual enrollment credits to students who want to purse a degree in Engineering Technology. Check out this cool video about FlexTech with a special feature about our partnership with The Village Workshop!