Big Dreams, Local Change: East Tennessee Global Ed Network

Big Dreams, Local Change: East Tennessee Global Ed Network
June 18, 2019

Students from four Knoxville-area schools participated in a pop-up design challenge as a part of World Savvy’s community hub in East Tennessee. Teams explored environmental issues like water pollution and waste and prototyped and tested potential solutions. Students worked in teams with students from other schools on the design question,

“How might we, as young people, make change on local environmental issues?”

As a part of World Savvy’s Hub work in East Tennessee, World Savvy and our partner, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), hosted 100 students from 4 Knoxville area middle and high schools at a day-long pop-up design challenge on April 4, 2019. Teams explored environmental issues in Tennessee like water pollution and waste, heard from a panel of local environmental professionals, and prototyped and tested potential solutions. They learned about design thinking as a methodology to build empathy and tackle problems with the perspectives and lived experiences of those most impacted at the center.

One team wanted to tackle microplastic pollution in the Tennessee River, so they designed a prototype of a filter that they called “Microplastic Vacuum” which would be attached to boats. The vacuum has a chamber where the microplastics are gathered then recycled to be reused, and a mesh net is placed in front of the vacuum to protect aquatic animals from going through.

“It’s not just that students are participating, it’s that they are participating enthusiastically, and really getting into the project and taking it as their own. It’s really, not just a confidence builder for them, but for us as well.”

Edison Aubrey
ELL Teacher at Central High School
Knoxville, TN

Teacher candidates from UTK supported student learning and engagement as facilitators of the design challenge, providing future teachers with a lens on integrating design thinking into classroom learning.  It was an inspiring day for the students, teachers, and the future teachers- and helped these young people begin to see themselves as powerful changemakers in their own community. The event was also covered by local news!

Segment from WVLT

This August, we convened our collaborative partners to reflect on the learning, challenges and successes of this work, and to explore the potential for even greater collaborative impact in the region in the coming years.

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