Research and Design Lab

The Upper Arlington High School Research and Design lab is a conceptual space to explore, prototype and design innovative approaches to teaching and learning. We began conceptualizing the lab during the 2015-2016 school year and due to a very generous donation from a local family and support from both the Upper Arlington Education Foundation and the Upper Arlington High School PTO, we have been able to invest time and resources into its development during the 2016-2017 school year.



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From Earth to Hand

When I go to the store to buy a pair of running shoes, I’m thinking about comfort, price and style. The salesman or woman asks me to walk and they study my gait. They look at the way I wear down the soles of my current shoes. They consider any injuries or nagging pain. Then they bring out boxes of different brands and styles, and I try them on. I walk, I jog, I look over the colors.

Then, I make my decision.

I leave the store and do not think for another moment about those shoes. I simply use them. I put them on, lace them up, and rely on them to help me achieve my goals...until they’re worn out, and it’s time to start the process all over again: toss them in the trash, drive over to the store, meet the salesman or woman with access to knowledge and shoes, and choose my new pair of kicks.

I don’t consider how they’re made. I don’t inquire about the sustainability of the cloth, or the rubber in the soles. I don’t think about the amount of water it takes to make them, or how much the workers are paid to produce them. And when they’ve had enough miles, I certainly don’t think about where they go when I toss them into the trash.

But after sitting in Eva Frustaci and Beth Bailey’s class this past Tuesday, I will be thinking about all of that each time I buy a pair of shoes, or a package of t-shirts, or tub of peanut butter. I will be more mindful of my imprint on this world, and the way I spend my money to endorse or reject the way companies either respect or disrespect the world we live in.

In a collaborative project that asks students to conduct a life cycle assessment of an existing product, Mrs. Frustaci’s IB Business HL, year 2 class, and Mrs. Bailey’s IB Environmental Systems SL class, students created a visual flowchart that examines raw materials required to produce a specific product, as well as the production, distribution and energy required to make it. They also had to look into any global connections, economic issues, and sustainability issues, as well as waste production and management.

I came to observe the first day their presentations, and after watching students speak to their peers about their research on Hanes t-shirts, Jiffy peanut butter and Nike running shoes, I found myself struck with one part awe and another part guilt. As someone who tries to be mindful of recycling, or reusing bags, or bringing my own forks for lunch so I don’t have to use plastic ones, I must admit, I hadn’t thought for a minute about the path products take as they move from Earth to hand.

Listening to students comment on one another’s projects or reflect on their own work, I saw that they, too, were shocked by what they found, by the calculations they conducted, by the ethics companies chose to embrace or not to embrace, by the fact that children working abroad in t-shirt factories made in a year what high school students might make in a week. I saw the impact this project had on the way students viewed their particular product, but I also saw the way it made them question every product that came before the group.

In a world of broad consumerism, Frustaci and Bailey gave students the framework for a “pause,” for the chance to halt the rushing wave of purchases, so students could think deeply about the layers of a business, about the ethics in decisions, about the impact of our choices.

They also gave them the chance to synthesize statistics in a way that makes the numbers more personal. For instance, students could look at the number of shoes produced each year and then multiply that number by the amount of water it takes to make them. By asking students to create their own calculations, Frustaci and Bailey are requiring them to think beyond the information companies give to us in marketing materials. They are teaching students to be thoughtful, critical and mindful, so they have a means of figuring out the full picture of what they’re buying, rather than being swayed by the facade of what they see on a website or on the back of a box.

And even bigger than all of that, this project has planted a seed of conscientiousness. It has given students the chance to discover truths and realities on their own. It has given them time to reflect, and it has empowered them to decide what to do with the discoveries they make.

So many of us go through life in the same way I have approached running shoe purchases: in a rush and with the lens of what we need. But the more we, as a society, can be exposed to conscientiousness--the more we can be educated about the layers of impact in our world--the greater the chance we will be able to improve it. The more we can inform and inspire our youth, the greater the chance these students will be able to make a difference: as buyers, as sellers, as inventors, researchers and dreamers, as idea-seekers aiming to improve the path from Earth to hand.


Posted by lmmoore on Friday February, 24, 2017 at 10:07AM

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Contact Information

Laura Moore
Instructional Leader

1650 Ridgeview Road
Upper Arlington, OH 43221

1950 North Mallway Drive
Upper Arlington, Ohio 43221
(614) 487-5000

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