Youth and Environmental Design: Campaigns that Matter

The Human Impacts Institute’s (HII) education team paired with freshmen from New Design High School in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood in March of 2012 to examine human impacts in the students’ NYC communities. Two weeks ago, HII had its first meeting with the freshmen science class where students discussed impacts in their community specifically discussing waste, water, energy, and transportation. Each respective topic group developed a list of the top ten impacts in their community and questions that they would ask members of the Lower East Side neighborhood. Last Friday, HII had its second meeting with the freshmen science classes. During the week and half that HII was away from the classes, the students had gone out into the Lower East Side community and had asked random people the questions that they had developed the week before regarding their topic.

After executing their public survey, the students’ instructor, David Rothauser, had them draw statistical information from the answers that they received. When we had asked the students if they were surprised by any of the answers they received, many replied “yes!”. Some of the answers students found interesting include:

  • Males recycled more than females

  • Asian women recycle more than Asian males

  • Many individuals run the faucet for more than a minute when brushing their teeth

  • Most of the members surveyed traveled by train

The goal of the Human Impacts Institute’s second class with New Design students last week was to aide them in developing campaign ideas concerning their group’s topic (waste, water, energy, and transport). We were lucky enough to have a special guest join us for the day’s class: Rachel Barnard. Rachel is an accomplished architect and has recently established a youth program, Young New Yorkers, to help teens in East Brooklyn that have been tried in court as adults. Rachel was very enthusiastic about working with the New Design students in helping them with their campaign designs.

HII prepared the students for campaign brainstorm time with a presentation of several campaign posters. We incorporated examples of successful vs. unsuccessful and awareness vs. action campaign posters. As we went through examples, the students would study the image for a few moments then voice their opinion about whether they thought the posters were good or bad. They recognized that posters with too many words were not eye-catching. Many were very engaged in deciphering the meanings behind the posters and expressed different personal interpretations. Some discussed that they valued the posters that made a person pause and think for a few moments, while some preferred posters that depicted a more obvious, but striking, image.

After evaluating images, HII had the students reassemble into their four groups to begin drafting campaign ideas. The goal of this class was not to have the students make up their final idea, but to have them extensively brainstorm with one another and finish the class with a few ideas. We instructed the students to first pick an impact to concentrate on from the last class, reflect on their community surveys, and then decide what it was they wanted to say, whether it was action or awareness. After much thoughtful and spirited discussion, the groups began creating slogans pertaining to the impact on which they had chosen to concentrate. Many of the slogans the groups came up with were very creative and innovative. Below are just a few examples of the slogans that were developed

  • Watt’s the problem? (Slogan regarding energy usage)

  • One Starts, A Million Follow (Slogan raising awareness of litter)

  • Use a Hovercraft (Action campaign slogan for alternate transportation uses)

  • Water you going to do about it? (Slogan referring to water usage)

HII Education crew, Tara DePorte (HII Founder), and Rachel Barnard all found the second New Design class a success, to say the least. Some students had come up to us at some point during the class to tell us that they had turned off the water that week while brushing their teeth or unplugged their cell phone when it was done charging. We have found that the New Design students are very open and excited to combine science with the arts in designing and thinking critically about their campaigns. The students have already been working this week on their campaigns, which can be seen here.

We are all looking forward to out next meeting and can’t wait to see the students’ work!

By Melanie Griffin, 2012 Human Impacts Institute Environmental Education Intern

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