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Students Soar to New Heights in Green Building Seminar

On the last day of winter break I had the good fortune of speaking with Pathways High student, Perryon, about his seminar experiences. He told me the Green Building seminar is his favorite so far and he described how he and other students were testing their building designs, prototypes constructed out of newspaper, to determine how well they could withstand wind and other natural elements. He said he especially likes the real world work he’s able to do in the seminar.

Fast forward two days and I’m visiting the Chicago Architectural Center with my family. As we walked passed scale models of the largest buildings in the world, I was happy to draw the connections between the information displayed on the placards by the models and my conversation with Perryon. Specifically, I was drawn to the model of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, measuring a staggering 2,717 feet (828 meters!) The captions on the wall told the story of the building’s conception and development. I was excited when I saw the architects’ use of the design process* and emphasis on a multidisciplinary approach as Pathways High students are exposed to these concepts in their seminars, like Green Building. Students were also introduced to the design process in the entrepreneurship seminar during first quarter this year. Perryon excelled in this seminar, as well. His passions took off as he launched his business, A Helping Hand.

Perryon’s talents are many and diverse, like all of the young people at Pathways High. For example, as we talked, I learned that Perryon had been teaching fellow students how to salsa dance. He’s been dancing since he was in elementary school. How might the foot patterns of dances be applied to building design, like the lotus flower shape that inspired the Burj Khalifa?

Our discussion reminded me of the concepts described in one of my favorite books, The Medici Effect, by Frans Johansson. Like the world-changing insights and innovations during the Renaissance, breakthrough ideas often occur when people bring concepts from one field into a new, unrelated one. Specifically, the book highlights how breakthrough ideas, ones that propel us from one innovation curve to the next as opposed to incrementally innovating along an existing curve, are most likely to occur when novices “collide” with experts. As experts develop increasing depth of knowledge in their field of study, there is a point where this knowledge actually limits the expert’s ability to achieve breakthrough ideas. However, when novices work alongside experts, the novices bring a broader lens through which to view problems and possible solutions. At Pathways High, we bring experts to work alongside our students every opportunity we can find. We are inviting architects into the Green Building seminar to both inspire our students and be inspired by them.

At Pathways High, students are soaring to new heights in the Green Building seminar through real world work and interactions with experts. Will you join us?


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