Table lamps, cushions, clocks, mobile phone stands, electronic dice, land yacht models, pewter jewellery, designer sunglasses, wooden storage boxes, cuddly toys, flashing light signs, puppets and money boxes! These are just some of the products that children design and make during their Design and Technology lessons.
Children tackle their projects using the design process P.R.I.M.E. This stands for Problem (or opportunity), Research, Ideas, Making and Evaluation. During each stage of this process children record research, technical information, ideas sketches and drawings in a Research and Ideas notebook which builds into a ‘story’ of how the project has progressed. This is similar to the type of design presentation required during GCSE courses. The emphasis is on designing so the starting point is always a practical problem or an opportunity to improve something. For example, making a storage box to keep items tidy and make it less likely that they will be lost.
Once the problem or opportunity has been established children are encouraged to carry out research. They might go to the library to search for suitable shapes for a pair of fancy dress sunglasses. Or they might measure coins to design the size of a money box slot. Walking around the school to find natural forms could provide useful inspiration for a jewellery project. Sometimes research involves a taught lesson learning about electronic components and then connecting them to build, for example, a flashing light circuit. The internet is also a very useful source of research material and children are sometimes directed to specific websites, often completing a worksheet which helps them to discover useful information for a project.
Using their research as inspiration children are taught how to produce ideas sketches; these are quick, freehand, pencil sketches ‘from brain to paper’. Usually they are asked to produce a range of ideas rather than a single sketch. Although children find this difficult at first and often claim they ‘know what they want to do’ they are asked to persevere as once they can master the technique the quality and quantity of the ideas they can produce improves rapidly. With several sketched ideas in front of them they are able to discuss their plans and make a decision about the best way forward.
Now the children embark on the making stage of the process. They learn how to use all the tools and machinery in the workshop during their time at the Prep School. Traditional skills are taught, for example, cutting a lap joint using a tenon saw, and children also use machinery, for example, a powered jigsaw to cut the curved plywood shapes for a puppet’s hands. Health and Safety is of paramount importance. Not only are children taught safety rules for each task, and made to adhere to them, but they are also shown how to do their own Risk Assessments of particular tasks so that they develop a strong safety awareness. By the end of Year 8 children will typically have experienced using: a range of hand tools, the powered jigsaw, powered hand a pillar drills, the strip heater for forming acrylic sheet, electronic soldering, pewter casting, vacuum forming and finishing processes such as sanding, wet and dry paper, paint, varnish and wax.
Evaluation is the final stage of our design process. Children are encouraged to review the project they have produced. This might involve testing the project, for example, racing their model land yacht and recording the results of the races. Or they might add a photograph of the project to their Research and Ideas notebook and annotate it with notes about how it could be improved. Children usually take the project home as soon as it is finished and are encouraged to record comments from parents and friends about their work.
Children use computer applications regularly in their Design and Technology work. This might involve producing a Computer Aided Design working drawing using Techsoft 2D Design V2 or pasting a range of images collected from the internet onto a Microsoft Word document to produce a research ‘mood board’ or producing a PowerPoint presentation as part of a product evaluation or using our Computer Aided Manufacturing Stika machine to make a product logo to attach to a prototype made in the workshop.
As well as designing and making during their weekly double D&T lesson children have the opportunity to work on their own project ideas during lunch-time sessions or join the Monday evening D&T activity. The annual Art and D&T exhibition is an opportunity for every child in the school to exhibit one of their projects to a wider audience.