Building a better world

Cool Girls focused their activities in 2012 on the theme of “building a better world.”

Director Mary Golden got the idea when, as usual, she asked the girls what they wanted to learn at the beginning of the semester.

“I was touched by their deep concern about taking care of nature and helping people who were suffering due to earthquakes and other natural disasters,” Golden said. “Through the following months, I saw them express their sense of responsibility for the Earth in play, art and improv, as well as in their discussions that accompanied our activities.”

At the end of the semester, as the students evaluated what they had done the past few months, some of them said they wanted to learn to invent beautiful things that no one had thought of before, medicines that would make people well, and methods to stop global warming.

Golden’s mind started ticking. At a local crafts store, she found a half-price sale on “Toobs” of small toys–people, animals, vehicles, villages, buildings, plants and other objects that make up our world. She called a couple of parents and asked what they thought about helping the girls construct civilizations using the toys and building materials. With their endorsement, she bought hundreds, knowing that the girls would take it from there.

“I believe that this experience reinforces their self-confidence as their ideas are taken seriously,” Golden said. “They are asked to work like scientists and environmental planners and to record ideas that may one day seed projects they develop to build a better world for themselves, their families and friends, people they don’t know, the planet and the universe.”

Students used rulers, paper, pencils, crayons, tape; cardboard, realistic miniatures of plants, animals, machines and people; Zometools, architectural blocks, small found objects from the natural world, such as shells and pinecones etc; small objects from the manufactured world, such as tiles and glass beads, cardboard tubes, pipe cleaners, wire, toothpicks, self-hardening clay, linoleum tiles, chemicals, aluminum foil, marshmallows, skewers, plastic cylinders….The list goes on! And they made videos.

What were the goals?

  • To use STEAM to explore age-appropriate building and engineering concepts, techniques, and materials.
  • To explore the concept of environmental design and sustainability through the use of hands-on creative scenarios.
  • To enhance self-expression as well as collaboration in the creation of “a better world” through presentations.
  • To record their activities in their science journals and maintain a history of their efforts for review.
  • To supplement studies in their school classrooms.

The club members got off to an auspicious start. They discussed features they want in their ideal worlds. They recorded their visions and goals in journals and sketchbooks. They considered environmental planning, measurement and scale models.

These very young girls considered what people they don’t know might need, and how to create their ideal worlds without negatively impacting others, such as how to obtain fuel without damaging forests.

Working at a fevered pitch, they constructed human habitats, inspired by watching a video of people building sustainable “earthships” as low-cost dwellings for people in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. They used quick-drying clay to shape their structures. At the end of the session, they presented their models, from the practical – water collection – to the delightful – island snack shack and swimming pool.

The girls matter-of-factly considered space exploration and the universe as part of their world, experimenting with different amounts of fuel to power rockets that actually blasted off.

The notion of improving our world isn’t far from children’s minds. In 2013, former Cool Girls and new Cool Girls are collaborating to document the Crest View Habitat adjacent to the school. With the help of parents, teachers, students and community volunteers 20 years ago, Crest View became the first of many schools across the country to convert adjacent land into a valuable outdoor lab. Coached by CG Art Director and landscape architect Cindy Noel, Cool Girls and their mentors will create a lasting multimedia record of the lives they’ve learned to love. They are building a better world already by telling the story of a part of their neighborhood that hosts indigenous plants and animals.

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