Humber College students become the educators with interior design service project
Interior design programs have all sorts of ways students learn about the field, and educating students on how deeply interior design impacts our lives each day. Recently, I spoke to Professor Zaiba Mian of Humber College about the service learning project her students led as part of their coursework for an Independent Study course, “Our students at Humber College are required to complete an independent study project in order to graduate. Initially, our Program Coordinator Kelly Gluck had wanted it to be a service learning project, to connect the students to community groups who wouldn’t normally have access to interior design.”
“Students have worked with church groups, shelters, women’s groups, and all kinds of local organizations. Because of the pandemic, we had to be a little more creative, normally, our students would go out and find their own project. They take a professional practice course in which they put a proposal together, and when it’s approved, they get to work on it.”
This year, a number of students had their proposals approved, but the pandemic threw a wrench into their plans, forcing students to regroup and find new partners. Mian put the call out to her network, “I reached out [...] to Carl Oliver, who is former Associate Dean at Humber, who connected me with Pine Grove Public School, part of Halton District School Board, and another colleague who teaches grade one at a school in the Toronto District School Board.”
With their student groups sorted, groups of 2 to 3 Bachelor of Interior Design (BID) students each developed a workshop, held over two days, to educate the younger students on basic design concepts.
I also spoke to Danielle Narramore, a 4th year BID student who developed and led a workshop with Larissa Borys, for Pine Grove students in grade 8. For their first session they walked students through the interior design profession and the field, they addressed the differences between interior design and interior decorating and the types of jobs those who study interior design can pursue as a career.
They also gave students an overview of the principles of design, in order to prepare students for a model making workshop. Instead of issuing carte blanche for their model, the grade 8 students each picked a song, created a 2D design inspired by the song, and then made a 3D model inspired by their selection. Many selected top 40 music, but Danielle and Larissa also encouraged the group to think about songs in genres such as EDM, jazz, and other instrumental genres.
Two weeks later, Danielle and Larissa met with the grade 8 group again where the students presented their models, in a virtual mock critique, replicating how the BID students present their work to their peers. “We encouraged the students to use anything they had around the house, so many students re-used household items, some used flowers, some used lots of the same material experimenting with colour and pattern,” One student even created a compartment which would release confetti in their model.
The BID students also showed examples of their work and shared how demanding their post-secondary studies are, which prompted deeper questions from the younger groups, who are also dealing with their own virtual school and pandemic fatigue. Mian attests, “My students said it was interesting to be asked some really honest questions from younger students. The Grade 7 and 8 students are starting to think about their careers, and where they see themselves in the future.”
The experience has been inspiring for the Humber students as well, leaving Danielle with an interest in sharing her knowledge, “It was fulfilling to share and teach these students, which surprised me,” the experience was also a chance to sharpen their public speaking skills, “It challenged us to break down the concepts and think about how [interior design principles] can be communicated.”
Mian agrees, “I think it’s meaningful for both parties, for our students and for the elementary students. They have an interest in design, and haven’t had a chance to see what’s involved, or hear about it. It’s a nice way to introduce these ideas a bit earlier. Ultimately, it was really successful all around.”
When hearing about this project, one can’t help but consider what the next version will look like, especially as we move more rapidly to the post-pandemic future. It seems clear many organizations will be reconsidering how they use their space and the incorporation of infection control procedures. Regardless of the service-learning project focus, keeping the format is worthwhile, “Our students benefit from sharing their knowledge” says Mian.