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Future Design Academy

State Department of Education

The primary target of this project included grade school gifted children, grades 4-6, many of whom experienced learning disabilities but also who exhibited gifts in either the arts, design, or engineering. Students from the Boise, Kuna, Mountain Home, and Middleton school districts were invited, and the total number of participants included 42 children. The State Department of Education funded the majority of the project, along with a $7,909 grant from the Idaho Commission on the Arts.

The goal of the project was to offer gifted students a hands-on STEAM’d (STEM plus art and design) experience through six full days of integrated learning.  A secondary goal was to include students who were not currently involved in a fulltime (or any) current gifted program but who showed talent in the areas we focused on.

The classroom sessions took place at REUSEUM, 3131 Chinden Blvd, Boise.  The final celebration took place at JUMP in downtown Boise.

We selected this project because the pilot, which occurred last year, was a great success, and we knew we could expand and build on our experiences in the previous year.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

How can Future Design Thinking employ the strengths of visual-spatial, creative, artistic children who have often not been recognized for their talents?

Every session built on the previous one, employing both Idaho Visual Arts Standards and Next Generation Engineering Standards.

Visual Arts Standards:

  • Brainstorm multiple approaches to a creative art or design problem.
  • Combine ideas to generate an innovative idea for art-making
  • Individually, or collaboratively, develop a visual plan for displaying works of art, analyzing exhibit space, the needs of the viewer, and the layout of the exhibit
  • Develop and apply relevant criteria to evaluate a work of art

Engineering Standards:

  • Design a solution to a real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering
  • Evaluate a solution to a real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and tradeoffs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts

Outcomes the students accomplished:

  • Utilize Hands-on Learning with an emphasis on doing, not looking
  • Recognize environment as key; students participate in a room with art supplies, nuts and bolts, electrical wires, software—a real maker-space
  • Incorporate authentic integration of content where learners identify, define, and create work that utilizes commonalities between disciplines.
  • Extend Project-Based learning to real Design Problems
  • Assess Mastery through using authentic materials, processes, products, and presentations students learn both individually and cooperatively on projects. Students learn through constant exhibit walks to view other’s solutions to design problems and show/analyze their work through completing rubrics on individual projects.


Each student took the NNAT (Naglieri 2) test of visual/spatial ability.  These were shared with district coordinators.

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

Future Design Academy 2018 succeeded beyond our expectations, mainly because we examined our prior experience, surveyed those involved concerning ways we might improve the program, and carried out our intentions.

For example, by adding one day to the program students were more successful in the Logo project. Students spent two days designing personal logos on the computer program, Tinker cad, which could directly be printed on the 3d printer owned by Reuseum.  Last year, our students did not understand fully the 3d nature of the computer design and their logos were not successful.  I was most pleased to watch Glen, our Reuseum instructor, grow in his ability to teach children how to solve their own problems. Finally, we watched the children become more involved as individual groups within the group through various challenges and finally the automaton project.  Rather than creating individual machines that had no connection, the students worked together to tell a simplified Greek myth.  Each participant took the beginning, middle, or end of the story—and it was rewarding to watch students help one another, sometimes through designing characters that looked alike on each of their automata or finding unlikely materials to design puppets that revealed their actions in each story.  Students also worked well in the final project through helping one another, at times through designing a stopping device to make their cams work as they wanted—and sharing some of their inventions.


Last year, we used funds to create a video in which participants were interviewed—but this year we did not produce an actual video.  Student response to attending the program was overwhelmingly positive.  We had superior participation and students saying “I wish Future Design Academy were every day!”  Our documentation of just a portion of their fine work is attached in the form of photos that were taken by our teacher assistant.  She took nearly a thousand photos, and the selected ones are representative of most of the projects the students completed.


As I will retire soon, the project would continue via my successor.  I would advise that person to look through the files of all the materials and use/revise anything as he/she sees appropriate.  We have kept a collection of lessons, paperwork required by each participant, and weekly newsletters. I would suggest that districts revolve, with any district having participated for two years taking off a year—however, not all districts are able to commit to this project.  Districts are responsible to deliver and pick up their participants.  Sometimes this involves going to several schools and dropping off at various locations.  I have used my contacts in the gifted community to garner interest.  With the expansion of the Reuseum classroom, perhaps 12-14 students could attend each session.  Our location at Reuseum has been a key to success, as it inspires children to invent, design, and create.  Mostly, I would keep the age group similar, as grades 4-6 work perfectly together on a project such as this.