The first brainstorming collaborative session took place at String Theory High School on Monday, Sept.22nd. String Theory and UArts students participated in a brainstorming session on defining and beginning to answer the question of community. The UArts students prototyped a series of cards which were used as tools to facilitate conversation around the idea of community and what it means to the students. Prior to the session, the String Theory students were asked to look up and around at their daily environment and take one representational photograph. This would also help the students draw comparisons and open the discussion around possibilities of defining community.
The cards were broken down into three sections: Questions, Value, and Strategy. The first set of cards contained thought-provoking questions which helped initiate insightful conversations about their personal interactions with their community and perception of others. The students had varying ideas about their personal communities, however as the questioning progressed, there was a realization that they all had similar goals and interests. The students evolved their ideas in assessing how communities get their start.
The discussion sort of began by the students defining the physical community, such as one student observing, “You guys come from a tighter community. Where I’m from, there are long gaps of woods between houses, so the community is different and will operate differently.” This helped ground the discussion in relating the different types of places and environments people come from and grow up in. The discussion then evolved into the communities that people then personally identify with, beyond the environment, such as “nature community,” “online community,” “concerts, or music community,” and “medical community.” The students identify with these ideas since they’re either participating directly or know someone who is active within such communities. One question was brought up about how their older relatives might define community. One student brought up the idea of accessibility, in that her older relatives would tell her “more about being able to walk everywhere.” Another student reflected, “Coming into the city changes the dynamic of friendship,” in that meeting new people may be more accessible, and sometimes challenging since “even if you don’t like the person, you have to find a way to get along.”
There was much overlap in the discussions, but after the Value cards session, one group unanimously agreed on three topics as the most influential: Street Values or Ideas, Arts, and Events. The same group, after the Strategy session, agreed on the three topics: Community Greenspace, Performance Events/Concerts, and Monthly Pop-Up Events.
One of the conclusive ideas around community was that it is something “people take part in which they want to make better,” which is a great summation to what these sessions represent. These discussions and prototyping sessions are redefining what we expect to hear from high school students generally, and the impressive way in which these students quickly relate to something which they feel passionate about exceeds expectations. Christine DiPaulo, innovative consultant, observed, “We usually have to define terms and ideas for them, but sometimes they end up surpassing what we thought they understood.”