Creative Coffee Meets x 2

Minder Chen, 2013

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

  7 comments for “Creative Coffee Meets x 2

  1. Shannon Campbell
    September 21, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    Chantal – It makes me so happy to hear that others enjoyed the coffee morning and want to do it again, including yourself! I felt the same way! It was such a lovely and informal venue to talk about everything and anything!
    Anyway, it looks like you had a lot of important discussions with a wide range of people from different backgrounds (even if they all were boys!). You said that many of them felt their needs weren’t met- I hope they take these conversations forth and participate with some design changes of their own. Excellent blog post!
    Shannon

  2. Chantal Hochstrasser
    September 21, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    Thanks, Shannon. After reading everyone’s posts, I have so many ideas for coffee meets that I think I will run one a fortnight (each Friday morning at our Cafe Edmund, which is run by the Yr 12s) during term 4. I also intend to follow up with the men at the Jelly meetup and get some more in depth ideas from them.

  3. Rosie Watkins
    September 22, 2014 at 11:04 am

    What a feast of ideas must be churning through your head at the moment. The range of people in your cafe’ meet included such a full spectrum of school players.
    I am intrigued by the Jelly meetup you went to and was fascinated by the idea of a open-ended approach of the discussion. Coming from a small rural area it can be difficult to meet such a range of people. Very brave to step into that discussion.

  4. September 24, 2014 at 5:01 am

    Hi Chantal, your perseverance and creative thinking in getting a coffee meeting together are admirable. It is also terrific to hear that you enjoyed the end product and found it valuable. I think these sorts of meetings, in which students and staff share ideas are really important and sadly are not something we do because of the “busy-ness” of our schedules (the students as well as the staff). We have so much to learn from the students and each other.

  5. Miriam Edwards
    September 30, 2014 at 3:06 am

    Hi Chantal
    The idea of including students is something I could do next time. My ‘outsiders’ were academics from other Faculties and non-teaching staff. Thanks for sharing – BTW I love your illustration
    miriam

  6. Miriam Edwards
    September 30, 2014 at 3:08 am

    Hi Chantal
    Including students is something I could do next time (you have given me that inspiration) my ‘outsiders’ were academics from other faculties and non-academic staff.
    thanks for sharing and BTW I like your illustration
    Miriam

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