Setting up a Creative Coffee meet or two in a relatively short space time, leading up to the pointy end of term 3, was certainly challenging. Despite posting an invite on my personal Facebook page (hoping to entice an architect friend or two) and a Twitter post in #INF536, I was not able to get anyone to attend in time. And it was interesting to see that Brisbane does not have any Creative Coffee Meetups happening yet, and Teach Meets are few and far between, so it was time to get really creative.
Despite the fact that it was exam block, several Year 11s and 12s offered to attend a coffee meetup outside our Cafe Edmund before school, with half a dozen Yr 10s. An email was sent out to members of our Tech department and to our maintenance guys, with one member from each area attending. I found out, quite serendipitously that our Head of Geography was meeting with the Head of eLearning and our IT manager later that morning to discuss options for designing the Geography rooms, so those three staff members were invited and attended for most of the meeting. A past student who tutors in the library in the afternoon, and is studying design this year at uni, also attended.
I posed the question to them all that if a stranger were to walk into any of our spaces, what would they think was being valued, to get the conversation started. The consensus was that the spaces demonstrated that the boys’ social interaction was not valued, nor their need to play, be physical or engage in idea sharing.
The boys were very engaged and eager to share ideas for areas that they believed we needed around the school. The Head of Geography raised the fact that our departments are all silos, with negligible interaction or sharing of innovative ideas, designs or thinking and especially minimal funding. The Head of eLearning was keen to arrange opportunities for staff to share their ideas about spaces and technology and the maintenance guy felt that we needed more social spaces for the boys to gather and physical spaces for them to interact with.
I tried tweeting ideas during the gathering, but the ideas were flowing so fast, that in the end, we shared pens and paper and everyone jotted down ideas as they flowed. Each of us contributed one thing that we would like to see in our school. The IT manager said one of the most interesting things…he wanted to remove the internet filter as it was too expensive, time-consuming and slowed everything down.
Because the requirement was to include others from outside the school community, I found a Jelly Meetup at The Edge at State Library of Queensland.
Despite only 4 people, myself included, responding to attend on the Friday afternoon, I found 11 guys already settled in working and talking, when I arrived. Being the only female was a little daunting at first, but once the conversation about the design of the new Apple phone and watch started, it was easy to discuss the design of spaces in schools. The guys (who came from a range of careers, including IT guys, computer programmers, university students, researcher and a sociologist) all agreed that they never experienced spaces at their schools, where their interests (gamer and maker spaces) or social needs were met, and were eager to contribute ideas and suggestions based on their experiences at school, uni and work.
When I fed back to the students the following week about the suggestions made by the Edge group, the boys were keen to visit some of the spaces suggested, to see them for themselves. They have also asked if we could have another creative coffee meetup next term, as several boys and staff members gathered around to hear what we were discussing, wanted to participate further.
I will definitely be taking the Creative Coffee Meet idea to my next school in 2015. This has been an amazing experience, which seriously took me out of my comfort zone.