Thursday, February 21, 2008

Compact Nomadic Furniture

Saw this video on Make and immediately thought of a book I picked up years ago in a bargain bin called Nomadic Furniture. It had the schematics for all kinds of furniture that could be easily torn down and packed. At the time, we were moving a lot and the idea of being able to easily break down all my belongings into easily transportable components seemed like a great idea. My wife had silly notions about style, color schemes and comfort. I let myself get won over to her point of view by a huge, heavy couch that was ideal for napping.

This concept could be a fun for a classroom design project. Have your students design a piece of furniture on paper. Then mock up a scale model using construction paper. Then create a full size reproduction out of cardboard. Then have your parents come in so they can "ooo" and "ahhh".

I attended a workshop given by a woman who taught technology in the United Kingdom and she had a design unit built around the design and construction of a chair made out of cardboard and paper mache. (Sorry, I can't find her name in any of my notes.) I loved the idea but never pursued it as I had no place where I could work with wet paper mache and then store all the projects in their various stages. If you were working with collapsible cardboard models connected with something like McGroovys Box Rivets, it might be doable in a smaller space.

This brings to mind my two biggest complaints about technology labs. They never build them big enough and they never include an area where you can work with wet and dirty materials. Not all technology education takes place on a computer screen. Some of the best labs I've seen were stuck in old shops or extra storage areas with concrete floors, easy access to the outside and sinks with running water. The newer labs I've seen tend to be smaller and carpeted with the idea that the kids will be sitting at a computer and will never need to get out of their seats or build anything bigger than matchbox.

We work with what we are given but we can dream!

[Image: Captured from]

1 comment:

  1. I very much agree! Students often create completely arbitrary barriers about what they can and cannot do based on what they perceive the "rules" to be. Size is often a limitation based on perceptions of non-existent limits. I used 11X17 inch paper for a quiz ("Next week, we're going to have a really big quiz--make sure you study!") for my two college biology labs and just altering the size of the paper and the font had them giggling and chatting for the entire lab afterward. Playing with size really affects students.
    This past summer Ben and I were area directors at a Boy Scout Camp. The way Ben ran pioneering projects was to start out small and make scale models and worked up to building very large project like a full size draw bridge, look-out tower, or catapult. There's a really great sense of empowerment when kids don't limit their imaginations to the size of a medium cardboard box!
    But with space often at a premium and competition among adults for how that space should be used creative students may get their ambitions quashed. Especially if there's risk they'll damage the vinyl backed carpet squares or the low-powered generic computer work station!